Sounders FC spent the past couple of days celebrating what the players considered to be their second championship of the year. This week the Sounders get back to business, as the third and final title is now in their sights.
In the Western Conference Semifinals, Seattle will be up against the winner of the Knockout Round match between FC Dallas and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The Sounders will play on the road before hosting the second leg a week later, just as they did in their recent home-and-home series with the LA Galaxy.
So in addition to clinching the Supporters’ Shield, the Sounders adapted to the type of atmosphere they will see in the coming weeks.
“We looked at this last series as kind of the playoffs before the playoffs,” defender Zach Scott said. “You play in a place like LA and you come out with a draw – that’s exactly what you want to do when you’re in the playoffs. So it definitely gives us a little momentum as we look forward to whoever we match up with.”
Seattle was 2-1-0 against Dallas this season but struggled versus Vancouver, drawing the first meeting 2-2 before losing 1-0 in each of the final two matchups.
Last year, the Sounders were not able to get past the Conference Semifinals. But one reason why they are confident heading into the year’s playoffs is the form of forwards Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey, who led Seattle to a club-record 65 goals this season. Both strikers finished the regular season with double-digit goals and assists in their first full season playing alongside each other.
Dempsey, who missed two of those matches against Vancouver and a few more games while he was with the U.S. National Team, will be the first to admit his partner in crime is deserving of 2014 Volkswagen MLS MVP honors.
“I’m happy with what I was able to produce in the games I played, but if you’re going to give an MVP, I think Oba should be the MVP because he’s the one that’s leading in goals and assists,” Dempsey said. “And he had a part to play in the game-winning goal for us (Saturday). So hats go off to him.”
For that winning goal against LA, Martins and Dempsey completed a one-two before Martins found Marco Pappa with a pass between two LA defenders.
Despite the end result, the Sounders know Saturday’s match was not their best performance. They were held without a shot for the first 75 minutes. There could be more instances in the near future when all Seattle needs is a draw, and Head Coach Sigi Schmid takes pride in having shut out an LA side that led MLS in scoring.
“I know (Robbie) Keane wasn’t out there, but that’s a good attacking team,” Schmid said. “And I think we held them at bay. We might have bent a little, but we held them at bay and got a shutout in a very key game. And that is very important as we move into the playoffs.”