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September Schedule Is Calm Before Storm For Sounders

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For the Seattle Sounders the month of September starts with a long rest, at least during a three season competition. Considering the way that the schedule gets so crowed with MLS, US Open Cup, CONCACAF Champions League and finally the MLS Cup Playoffs in October this chance at rest combined with a home heavy schedule gives the Sounders a chance to go into the fury of a stretch as strong as they ever have. Yes, the month ends with a road trip as the calendar flips, but the middle is where opportunity lies for both CCL and Supporters Shield success to happen.

With only 10 points needed to advance to the knockout rounds of the Champions League the Sounders will face the weakest team in Group D twice. This is the only away game until Sept 24th. If Seattle can be just a decent team and get four points against CS Herediano of Costa Rica. Already outscored by 7 goals in the regional championship the side does have a decent 10 points in 4 played with a +3 GD in their domestic league, good for second in their young season. The CCL in September ends with the away leg against CSD Comunicaciones down in Guatemala city. This match is nestled in a long road trip and how Sigi approaches it will entirely depend on how many points were grabbed in the previous two matches. Los Cremas are 3-2-2 with only a +1 GD (4th in league) and would seem to offer a point or three, but winning on the road in Latin America isn't easy, particularly when bracketed by league away matches. If there is a reasonable target in those three matches it would be 5 points with two away draws and a home win, of course the team will play to win, but as fans seeing 5 points there would put Seattle into the knockout rounds.

In MLS play the opportunity for another stunning month is ripe.





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Red is bad for Seattle. Green is good.

It starts with the Sept 10th day game at CenturyLink Field against Western Conference rivals Real Salt Lake. While RSL is the only team that can compete with the Los Angeles Galaxy or the Sounders when it comes to goal differential they are actually just an average road team earning only 1.09 points per away match. It is unlikely that Javier Morales will be back for that match, and so the Sounders can halt the Utahns ability to climb to #1 or #2 in the West. This is also the match where Seattle is least predicted to win, but still favored and should be able to get at least a point.

The next home game is against the closest thing Seattle has to an Eastern Conference rival is the original dynasty of MLS DC United. The Black & Red are having another off year (and have since they lost the Open Cup in '09). Though stacked with talented youth up top (4th in league 1.48 GFper) the defense struggles and offers an opportunity for Seattle to take advantage of their 5th worst Goals Against Per of 1.48 (notice the symmetry?). United has a strong away record for an average team, but Sagarin sees the Sounders as strong favorites. Three points should be the target in this one.

September's MLS challenge ends with the Sounders final Cascadia Cup match of the year. The woeful Vancouver Whitecaps will host their final game at temporary home Empire Field. With all three teams in the Pacific Northwest still in the hunt for the Cup and the 'Caps with their final two at home this game will be tougher than the stats say it should, but the statistics say it should be easy. Our Northern neighbors are typical expansion team. Though they have made some recent improvements to form they give up more goals than league average, score less than league average and hold a mere 1.42 home record (Seattle has a 1.64 road ppm). Three points isn't just the goal, it is a must and would result in Seattle earning its first Cascadia Cup in the MLS era. A draw would force fans to watch the Portland Timbers at Vancouver's BC Place game the next week and hope for a favorable result.

One other note for this month that sees a 7 point minimum (to maintain Supporters Shield aspirations - Galaxy have 2 at home and 2 away in MLS with 2 road and 1 home in CCL) is that the Seattle Sounders Academy returns to action on Sept 17th against Real So Cal. While August was fast and furious with history being made. September offers a brief respite with the potential to set-up a very special October.