The Seattle Sounders have been here before.
With the 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake at CenturyLink Field on Wednesday night, the Rave Green have clinched a spot in the Western Conference Final for the third time in four years.
“I think we have an experienced team,” said Sounders FC Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “I’m extremely happy to go into a Western Conference Final. I don’t care who we play.”
Led by a veteran attack that featured Nicolás Lodeiro, Raúl Ruidíaz, Jordan Morris and Joevin Jones, Seattle came flying out of the gates, striking the woodwork and forcing Nick Rimando into string of impressive saves in the first half.
With the score level at the start of the second half, Seattle continued to mount attack after attack, ceding possession before carving RSL up in transition. For Schmetzer, the team’s willingness to keep their foot on the gas superseded any tactical nuances on the pitch.
“I think the majority of the game – the reason we won the game – was because we kept attacking and kept attacking,” said Schmetzer. “Our team is too good for us to not score goals. So, that’s what I was most proud of.”
No matter how many quality chances Seattle generated, it seemed like they couldn’t get past Rimando, who put in an amazing shift in his final professional game. But the Sounders’ persistence, fueled by a season of fighting through adversity, paid off as Gustav Svensson nodded home the winner in the 61st minute.
“We’ve struggled a lot this season,” said Svensson. “We struggled last game as well. But I’m very proud of how we’ve come through, and how we keep winning games even though we’ve struggled.”
As RSL pushed for an equalizer, two more veteran players, Ruidíaz and Lodeiro, linked up for an absolute golazo that iced the match, sending the Sounders back to the Western Conference Final.
“The resolve of this team, the mentality of this team, is great,” said Morris, who stretched Salt Lake’s back line with his blistering runs. “We’ll await the result tomorrow, obviously. We’re ready for either team and we’re just looking forward to that challenge.”
The Sounders are built for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, boasting a roster filled with players who’ve played in massive matches for both club and country. While that veteran savvy certainly paid dividends on Wednesday night, Sounders players noted the role of the club’s supporters in picking up the decisive win.
“Experience does help,” noted Svensson. “I have to say that our fans helped a lot today as well. I think we did not so good in the first half, but the second half was really good. That is a lot because of our fans who helped us today.”
The Sounders will enjoy a few days to recuperate before facing off against the winner of the other Western Conference Semifinal between LAFC and the LA Galaxy.
Regardless of the opponent, the Sounders will be prepared.
“This much I can promise: That team will be ready,” said Schmetzer. “That team will be ready, they will give it their all. They will fight, battle, scratch, pass, score, defend. They will do whatever it takes to win.”
If the Supporters' Shield winners, LAFC, win their Western Conference Semifinal, the Sounders will travel to Banc of California Stadium for the Western Conference Final. However, if the Galaxy pick up the victory, Seattle would then host at CenturyLink Field on Tuesday (7:00 p.m. PT; ESPN, ESPN Deportes, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM), with tickets going on sale tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. PT.
Additionally, the Sounders would clinch a spot in the 2020 CONCACAF Champions League if both LAFC and Atlanta United pick up advance from their respective fixtures this evening. However, if the Philadelphia Union upset the reigning MLS Cup Champions, the Sounders would host MLS Cup for the first time in club history, if they manage to emerge from the West.