Although the MLS season tends to feel stretched out over most of the calendar year, there are undoubtedly times when multiple matches are crammed in tight windows. With the inclusion of Lamar Hunt U.S. Cup and Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League matches nestled between league contests, there have been seven occasions this season in which the Sounders played three matches in nine days or fewer.
The Rave Green saved the best for last, though.
From Sunday, October 25 through this past Sunday, November 1, Sigi Schmid’s side won three massive home fixtures – clinching a playoff spot, advancing past LA Galaxy for the first time in the postseason and securing an aggregate advantage heading into the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinals.
Sounders FC improved to 19-15-7 across all competitions in 2015, including a 15-4-2 mark at CenturyLink Field. The club ended the regular season with a stretch of eight unbeaten matches on four wins and four draws – the second-longest mark in club history – to earn the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference.
The Rave Green are one of four teams remaining in the Western Conference, alongside FC Dallas, the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Seattle closed out the regular season with a record of 15-13-6, becoming the only MLS club to post 15 wins in each of the past five campaigns.
It also marked the completion a successful season for individual players, as well. Clint Dempsey joined Benny Feilhaber, Ethan Finlay and Sebastian Giovinco as the only players in MLS to record 10 goals and 10 assists this season. Dempsey is the only player to accomplish this feat in each of the past two seasons.
Obafemi Martins became the first player in Sounders FC history to have back-to-back seasons with 15 goals, and his career total of 40 tallies ranks just seven behind all-time team leader Fredy Montero, yet has played in 48 fewer matches for the Rave Green than Montero.
Martins became the first player in MLS history to score 15 goals on fewer than 45 shot attempts. This season, he broke the league’s scoring percentage mark among qualifying players, having scored 15 goals on 42 shots (35.7 percent).
Stefan Frei became just the eighth goalkeeper in league history to post 14 wins, 10 shutouts and 110 saves in one season. He set a new club record with 111 saves and set a new personal career-high with 10 shutouts.
LAST WEEK’S LISTINGS
On October 25, the Sounders topped Real Salt Lake 3-1 in front of the club’s fourth full-stadium match of the season. As a result, Sounders FC set a new MLS attendance record with a 2015 average of 44,247. The Rave Green have 10 wins in 13 matches with an attendance above 55,000.
For the first time in club history, Sounders FC recorded two goals in the opening 10 minutes and three goals in the opening 20 minutes. Dempsey became the third player to score two goals in the opening 20 minutes, and the 20 minutes to record three team goals ties the fifth-shortest stretch in club history.
On Wednesday, the Sounders defeated the LA Galaxy in the Knockout Round. In the fifth minute, Clint Dempsey scored the earliest goal in a postseason match in club history, while Nelson Valdez matched the previous record (Eddie Johnson, 11/18/2012 vs. LA Galaxy) with a scoring tally in the 12th minute.
Sounders FC improved to 6-0-0 all-time in postseason play when scoring the first goal. During the regular season, the club was 13-2-1 when finding the net first. Wednesday's three goals sets a new-single game record for most goals in a postseason match in club history.
Next up, the Sounders face FC Dallas in the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinal. In Sunday’s first meeting, the Rave Green turned a 1-0 halftime deficit into a crucial 2-1 win. Andreas Ivanschitz became the fifth player in club history with at least one career goal and one career assist in the postseason, joining Brad Evans, Zach Scott, DeAndre Yedlin and Clint Dempsey.
With his game-winner on Sunday via a late free kick, Dempsey recorded his third postseason strike for the Rave Green, joining Osvaldo Alonso and Eddie Johnson as co-leaders for most postseason goals in club history. Dempsey holds team records in various postseason categories, including shots (38), shots on goal (17) and game-winning goals (2).
FC Dallas, the No. 1 seed in the West, posted an 18-10-6 record during the regular season. With a 13-2-2 mark at Toyota Stadium, the Hoops had the best home record in MLS this year.
THROWBACK – 2014 Western Conference Semifinals
In the first leg held in Frisco, Texas, the hosts jumped out to a first-half lead on a converted penalty kick by Michel. In the second half, Seattle midfielder Osvaldo Alonso scored his third career postseason goal – tied for the most in club history – for the equalizer and crucial away goal heading into the second leg.
For the return leg, Sounders FC would secure advancement with either a win or scoreless draw. After the match remained 0-0 for the entire 90 minutes, Sounders FC advanced to the Western Conference Championship for the second time in club history on the away goals tiebreaker.
KEY TO THE GAME
Play to win the game. It’s not a must-win match – with a win, draw or a one-goal loss with multiple away goals scored in Sunday’s return leg, Sounders FC would advance to the Western Conference Championship. A 2-1 loss would send the two sides to an overtime of two 15-minute periods followed by penalty kicks if undecided. However, Schmid mentioned in his press conference the importance of playing for a win, as ‘playing for a draw’ can quickly turn into a loss. A tactful approach, but not settled nor overtly forward, will be key for a visiting club that faces a dangerous counterattacking offense on its own pitch.