Not to get too far ahead of ourselves here, but the schedule is starting to look mighty positive for the Seattle Sounders and their quest for MLS hardware. As has been repeated roughly 1 billion times, winning the MLS Cup is a bit of a crapshoot. Barely qualifying is only marginally worse than coming in as the Supporters' Shield winners. So, there's really no reason to get too worked up about the Sounders chances there.
What is a bit more intriguing is where they sit in the Supporters' Shield race, a trophy the Sounders rarely speak of but one that would surely help quiet some of the critics.
As crazy as it may sound, a win coupled with a Real Salt Lake loss this week would give the Sounders the best points per game in the league (1.68, which would be just a fraction point of point better than Sporting Kansas City can achieve if they were to win as well). At the same time, a loss could leave the Sounders out of playoff position based on pure points (but we'll leave that discussion to another story).
Put another way, this is lining up to be an absolutely crazy finish that could rival 2009 in terms of the lack of distance between winning the Shield and being out of the playoffs.
I'm getting a little distracted from my point, though, which is that the Shield is suddenly looking very winnable for the Sounders. Mainly that's because of their recent three-game winning streak, which would be enough for about half the teams to be having similar dreams.
What should be more encouraging, though, is that the Sounders' form reasonably stretches back to the start of April. As Josh Mayers pointed out in a blog post earlier this week, the Sounders are 10-4-3 since the start of April, a points per game of 1.94. That's the best figure in the league, besting RSL's 1.79 and the Portland Timbers' 1.78. The Sounders are also tied for the most wins since then, perhaps an even better barometer of how they are playing.
Moving forward, the schedule also appears to be looking pretty good for the Sounders. After the Dynamo match, the Sounders will have seven of their remaining 12 matches at home where they have compiled a 6-1-3 record and boast a +12 goal-difference. Only the LA Galaxy have a better home goal-difference.
Among the teams that will be likely battling for the Supporters' Shield, the Timbers are the only team have only played one more game than the Sounders and every other team has played two or more games. None of those teams have more home games left to play and the Galaxy and Timbers are the only ones with the same number of home games to play.
Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid and all the players I've spoken to have said all the right things about not focusing on the Shield. For them, it's just about accumulating as many points as possible, improving their playoff standing and trying to make their path to the MLS Cup as beneficial as possible. While I won't say that winning the Shield would feel as good as winning MLS Cup (the unbalanced schedule took a bit of sheen off) but it absolutely is something worth pursuing and right now, it seems to be far more within the Sounders' ability to control it.