It all comes down to this weekend. Sounders FC hosts Western Conference rival Real Salt Lake on Sunday (4 pm PT; JoeTv/KIRO Radio 97.3 FM/El Rey 1360 AM) with its postseason fate on the line. A victory guarantees the Rave Green a spot in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Here to provide his thoughts on Sunday’s game is former Sounders FC defender Taylor Graham, who now works as the club’s Senior Director of Business Operations.
On the league’s first-ever Decision Day:
It’s a perfect situation for MLS, and I think it’s a great situation for fans. Ultimately you want to see teams playing for something that matters. I’ve been a fan of Major League Soccer for 20 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this, with one conference being so competitive. I think it’s a league built for parity, and there are ways to exert yourself from one franchise to another, but it’s really exciting. It’s going to be a fascinating two hours for fans. It creates a ton of interesting planning scenarios from a business perspective.
Ultimately, I think this is something that fans are really going to get behind because there’s so many moving parts and there’s so many hypotheticals. Just when you get comfortable with one scenario, something is going to change. It’s fun to talk about, and daunting to plan for.
On how to approach Decision Day as a player:
My mindset, if I was playing in this game, would be that we need to get a result no matter what. You turn off everything else, block out all that’s going on outside of your game, because ultimately what you want to do is get in the playoffs. And the only way to guarantee yourself a spot in the playoffs is to win. With the talent the Sounders have on the field and with the fans at their back, I think they’re in a great spot to get a result and push through.
On injuries constantly shuffling Seattle’s lineup:
Injuries are part of the game. National Team call-ups are part of the game. Nelson Valdez was going to go away with Paraguay and Oniel Fisher was going to go away with Jamaica, and they wouldn’t have missed any games. But still, it’s people coming and going.
I think what’s scary is when you have everyone healthy, which we saw a couple of times. There’s so much talent on this team, and so many different options, so how do you plan for getting the best players on the field to get a result? There’s more talent than there are spots, which is a fantastic luxury. We’re healthier than we were over the summer, and that’s why you see the team is unbeaten in seven games.
On Stefan Frei’s 2015 campaign:
I think Stefan absolutely has a chance to win Goalkeeper of the Year. He set the tone, in my opinion, in the very first game. You look at our result, which was a comfortable 3-0 win against New England, and he made a huge save to keep the Sounders in that game. A lot of the talking points had to do with the Sounders cruising against the Eastern Conference champion, but those are the plays that are as good as a goal. Saves change games, and he has consistently come up with big saves. He’s been ever-present in the back. He’s made comfortable wins seem more comfortable than they were because of timely saves.