In their final four matches of the MLS regular season, the Sounders FC have important meetings with the Portland Timbers and FC Dallas at CenturyLink Field.
However, their matches with Real Salt Lake and the LA Galaxy are paramount – as Seattle, LA and Salt Lake are within three points of each other in the Western Conference standings.
RSL leads the trio at 16-11-4 (52 points) to put them second to the San Jose Earthquakes in the Western Conference. LA is close behind at 15-11-5 (50 points) while Seattle is right on their heels at 13-7-10 (49 points). Salt Lake may hold the three point edge, but Seattle has a game in hand, something they must take advantage of if they hope to jump out of the fourth spot in the West, which would put them in a play-in game with either the Vancouver Whitecaps (11-12-9, 42 points) or FC Dallas (9-12-10, 37 points).
That extra game before the Western Conference semifinal would be an extra hurdle in Seattle’s path if they hope to achieve their goal of winning MLS Cup, and a hurdle they are looking to avoid.
“Everybody wants to avoid that fourth place because you don’t want to play that extra game,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said.
The Sounders will get an early look at both opponents on Saturday when the Galaxy hosts Real Salt Lake at 6 pm Pacific Time at the Home Depot Center in a match that will be nationally televised on NBC Sports.
While the Sounders will remain aware of the results on Saturday, they will be keyed in on Sunday’s Cascadia Cup battle with the Portland Timbers.
“It’s a good game to watch and keep an eye on,” defender Jeff Parke said. “But we are focusing on winning against Portland – that’s the most important thing and we’ll worry about the other scores after that.”
Facing the other two teams that are battling for playoff positioning makes for an exciting schedule to close out the season, creating a playoff atmosphere as the regular season winds to a close. It also provides a barometer for the three teams as they prepare for potential playoff opponents as the No. 2 and No. 3 teams will meet in the Western Conference semifinal.
“It certainly helps us and keeps us in a rhythm of playing important games, so we can’t relax and have an easy game. Every game is going to be a game that’s going to require concentration and attention from the team, which is good because it keeps you sharp going into the playoffs,” Schmid said. “Playing those teams is good, it’s a good measuring stick for them and for us, and there’s still a lot at stake in terms of seeding and where you end up.”
In addition to their match against LA on Saturday and Seattle on October 17, Salt Lake will also face the Vancouver Whitecaps at Rio Tinto Stadium on October 27. The Galaxy will meet San Jose on October 21 before their season-ending clash with Seattle on October 28.