It all comes down to this.
The Seattle Sounders have already clinched a spot in the 2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. But that doesn’t mean Sunday’s match against Minnesota United (1:00 p.m. PT; JOEtv, YouTube TV, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM | TICKETS) won’t carry any weight. The team’s objective is simple: beat the Loons and secure the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
“I think it’s do-or-die for us,” said midfielder Cristian Roldan. “It’s a final. We [will] treat it as such.”
With only one match remaining in the regular season, the Sounders could still land anywhere between fifth and second in the jam-packed West. Adding to the playoff atmosphere of the fixture, Minnesota currently occupies the coveted No. 2 seed.
Sunday.— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) October 4, 2019
Let's get it 🤘 pic.twitter.com/xJ3qYCmFK3
Under the new postseason format, which includes single-elimination matches that the higher seed hosts, playoff positioning becomes even more important. The margins are slimmer, so it’s critical that teams leverage any competitive advantage, like playing in front of your supporters.
“If we are going to have opportunities in the playoffs to play at home, that needs to be a definite home advantage,” said goalkeeper Stefan Frei. “This is an opportunity for us to secure that advantage, but also show that we can make it count.”
Since Minnesota United currently holds the No. 2 seed, the Sounders are wary that their opponent will be equally motivated to pick up a result.
“They’re a team that’s fighting for the same thing,” said winger Jordan Morris. “They’re trying to get second. For us, we know that, so we have to come in and match their energy.”
The Sounders are no strangers to overcoming adversity, as they’ve scored four match-winning goals after the 89th minute in the last three months alone. Moreover, they’ve coped with absences of key players, through a mixture of injuries and international call-ups, throughout the course of the season.
As a result, they’ve been in playoff mode for quite some time.
“Last week was a big test, where we had to win,” added defender Kelvin Leerdam. “This week is a very big test because it’s for second place and a team you can maybe meet again the playoffs.”
The Sounders players and coaching staff know what it takes in these massive moments. After overcoming slow starts in 2016 and 2017, the team reached consecutive MLS Cup finals. Relying on that experience, they remain undaunted by the significance of Sunday’s match against a tricky Western Conference opponent.
With so many narratives whirling around the match, Seattle Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer didn’t mince words when asked about the group’s mentality.
“Win,” he said. “That’s our mindset.”