In the playoffs, form and style don’t matter. All that is important at the end of the day is surviving and advancing.
On Wednesday night at CenturyLink Field, Sounders FC took that mantra to heart with a 2-0 win over the Colorado Rapids in the Knockout Round of the MLS Cup Playoffs, advancing to the Western Conference Semifinals where it will meet the Portland Timbers in a grudge match of Cascadia rivals starting on Saturday in Seattle. It may be a quick turnaround, but after the victory Head Coach Sigi Schmid is satisfied that his team has the mindset to go on a run.
“I think right now it’s mind over matter and you just have to go out and play—that’s just the way it is,” Schmid said. “There’s no tomorrow, you just have to go out and play.”
Statistically, not much separated Seattle and Colorado in the match except for Seattle’s play in the final-third. Sounders FC attempted 14 shots to just seven for the Rapids and that opened the door for Seattle to earn the win.
Brad Evans scored a first-half goal and Eddie Johnson added one in second-half stoppage time when Seattle was playing down a man after Michael Gspurning was sent off in the final minutes for handling the ball outside the box.
Through that late adversity, the Sounders hunkered down and earned the result necessary to advance.
“We've done this before. When it is a playoff game you try and throw everything out the window. Is it going to be perfect? No, but at the same time it is mental at this point,” Evans said. “Coming off a win you always feel a little bit better. It is easier to wake up the next morning and get back on the grind. We will probably have a good day tomorrow with it being Halloween and then we will settle in and start focusing on the next game.”
That next game comes at CenturyLink Field on Saturday against the Timbers, against whom Seattle went 1-1-1 this season.
Portland finished first in the Western Conference during the regular season at 14-5-15 and had the luxury of sitting and watching the Knockout Round match between fourth-seeded Seattle and fifth-seeded Colorado.
Now faced with a short turnaround, Sounders FC is carrying momentum into the two-leg, aggregate-goal series.
“We are on to the next round. It gives players a chance to get healthy and it gives us momentum,” Johnson said. “I have been here for two years and this is a strong team we have right now. We all know that we won't always be able to play with each other and we are just trying to take advantage of this opportunity.”
In the Timbers, Seattle will meet a team that plays a similar style to Colorado, with a 4-3-3 formation. However, Schmid and the Sounders know that it won’t be a like comparison between the two clubs across the board.
“Formations can be similar—it’s players and personalities that make it different,” Schmid said. “We’ll develop our game plan and be ready for them.”
Playoff tickets for Saturday’s match are on sale now at the CenturyLink Field Box Office, via www.SoundersFC.com or by calling 800-745-3000. The second leg will be Thursday, October 7 at JELD-WEN Field in Portland.