Playoff Struggles, Mentality and Historical Success

2012 MLS Cup Logo

Memes are interesting things. Not the LOLcat types, but those ideas that infect a group's mindset like a virus. Sometimes these memes can be positives, others they are downright dangerous. Thankfully in sports analysis they are either right or wrong.

Does that sound absurd? Yes. Is this what people are directly saying? No.

In the past I've pointed out the success of the Sounders in the US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League. These have been laughed off as mere auxiliary tournaments; that wins there have no relationship to the mental strength needed in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

But there's more. The players and coaches of Seattle have reams of experience in Playoffs. They've won many titles and even more matches in Playoff scenarios. According to the team notes issued on October 29th of this year 10 players or coaches have won titles in their league. A majority of those titles were in leagues with Playoffs.

League Winners

Several Sounders FC coaches and players have won league championships in their career. Five times head coach Sigi Schmid ended his season with a championship, including three College Cups and two MLS Cups. Under the guidance of Schmid, Brad Evans and Ezra Hendrickson won the 2008 MLS Cup with the Columbus Crew, and Patrick Ianni and Chris Henderson both played on MLS Cup championship teams. Overall, 10 current Sounders have won league championships from Cuba to Trinidad & Tobago, Sweden and Austria. Goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann has twice won a league championship for the A-League Sounders.

League Championships
As Coach Team Championship Years
Sigi Schmid UCLA College Cup 1986, 1990, 1997
LA Galaxy MLS Cup 2002
Columbus MLS Cup 2008
Brian Schmetzer Seattle Seadogs CISL Championship 1997
Sounders USL Championship 2005, 2007

As Player Team Championship Years
Osvaldo Alonso Pinar del Rio Campeonato Nacional 2006
Marc Burch Maryland College Cup 2005
Cordell Cato Defense Force Pro League 2011*
Brad Evans Columbus MLS Cup 2008
Patrick Ianni Houston MLS Cup 2007
Leo Gonzalez Municipal Primera Division 2009
Marcus Hahnemann Sounders A-League 1995, 1996
Reading Championship 2005/6*
Chris Henderson UCLA College Cup 1990
Kansas City MLS Cup 2000
Ezra Hendrickson LA Galaxy MLS Cup 2002
DC United MLS Cup 2004
Columbus MLS Cup 2008
Adam Johansson IFK Goteborg Allsvenskan 2007*
Mario Martinez Real Espana Clausura 2007
Brian Schmetzer San Diego MISL Championship 1985, 1986, 1988
Christian Tiffert RedBull Salzburg Austria 2007

Notes: * indicates a non-playoff system. Mauro Rosales was not included, though Wikipedia lists him on a league winning side in 2008.

It's not like those coaches and players don't share their stories. They do.

"I think it helps because you can share your experiences," Assistant Coach Ezra Hendrickson said after Tuesday's practice. "Maybe you've gone through zero-zero in the first leg and now you're going to the opponent's place and come up with a victory. You share those experiences with them about it being possible, even though it's on the road. You draw on the past and your time with this team or that team. This is something that's possible. You can motivate that way, but at the end of the day the players themselves have to believe. You can share as many experiences as you want, but if the players don't buy into it and see it as a possibility it's hard. I think we have a group of guys here that believe. We're really confident and we can get what we need from this game."

It certainly does come down to players, but those claiming that the players don't have the mentality need to demonstrate why they have had it in the past and lack it now. They don't get to point to coaches. The coaches have too many titles.

So, if you think that the Sounders lack a playoff gear what is it about the crest or the Rave Green that has infected these men so?

Maybe nothing. Just maybe Seattle played it's best game of the year on Friday night and were merely unlucky.

Bottom line:

If Seattle plays like they did on Friday, they win most of the time. "Most" actually understates how good they were. The Sounders win nine out of 10 games playing at that level, which is why their history of playoff frustrations should matter little on Thursday. Keep doing what they’re doing, and Seattle moves on.

The ball is in Kreis’s court. His team is as predictable as they come in terms of set up and tactics. He always uses that narrow, diamond in midfield, and the team likes its short, controlled passing game – a plan that didn’t work on Friday. It failed miserably, but thanks to Nick Rimando, RSL’s was given a lifeline.

Memes are funny things. Logic won't stop them and neither will this post.

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