Seattle Sounders anxious to keep the momentum going versus Sporting KC in Western Conference Knockout Round

SEATTLE — The Seattle Sounders will host Sporting Kansas City in the Western Conference Knockout Round of the 2016 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs on Thursday. In a poetic way, it couldn’t be anyone else.

The nadir of Seattle’s 2016 season came on July 24. The club produced its most lifeless performance in recent memory and left 3-0 losers, distraught and utterly dismantled. That capped a start to the season that saw the Sounders earn just 20 points from 20 matches.

The organization parted ways with longtime head coach Sigi Schmid and appointed assistant Brian Schmetzer as interim head coach. The Sounders occupied the West’s basement and lacked any sort of bite offensively or intimidation defensively. The end of the season felt like it couldn't come soon enough.

So after the Sounders completed their remarkable turnaround with a win over Real Salt Lake on Sunday and clinched their eighth consecutive postseason berth, it’s only fitting that their first playoff match is against Sporting, a team indirectly responsible for Seattle’s reversal of fortune.

“[Sporting KC] has a long history of successful seasons,” Schmetzer said. “It doesn’t matter if it was KC, if it was RSL again, if it was anybody else. These are the playoffs now, they’re going to be tough games.

“Yes, we’ll certainly work on the nuances of any opponent that we face, but I truly believe that if we get our team right, then we will give ourselves the best chance of winning.”

Sporting defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 2-0 at home on Sunday to clinch the No. 5 seed in the West, only their second victory since Aug. 27. But the Sounders have not beaten SKC since 2014, going 0-3-2 over their last five matches.

The Sounders have been playing as well as anyone of late, though, and are hoping that form carries over into the postseason.

“We’ve got momentum,” said fullback Tyrone Mears. “The past two or three months we’ve really turned it around. [Sporting KC will] make it difficult to play and look to counterattack. We’ve got to be smart, keep possession and when we get chances we have to bury them.”

Despite failing to secure a postseason spot against the Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas in their last two matches, the Sounders felt no extra sigh of relief after finally qualifying on Sunday. The celebration was muted and players focused, a sign of a team that knows it still has something left to prove.

Schmetzer’s message to his team in the locker room after the match was prudent and concise:

“We’re going to work tomorrow.”



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