Sunday's match carries a lot of meaning. While there's a chance to make the MLS Cup Playoffs after a loss, it's a convoluted path. Even the path to advancement with a draw takes a few readings to understand. Here is that scenario, which is basically a SAT-level word problem:
They would also clinch a playoff spot with a tie vs. RSL AND EITHER a Earthquakes loss/draw at FC Dallas OR an SKC loss/tie vs. Colorado AND an SKC loss+tie combination in their double-game week.
Plus there's the whole momentum issue. This season has three distinct parts - before the Red Card Wedding the Seattle Sounders looked like the best team in league history, the Dire Days they were one of the worst in the league, and then since the transfer window closed, the Sounders have a decent 1.6 PPM with the third best GAA, third best GD and fifth best GFA. They should have more points in those past 10 matches, but they do not. Points were definitely squandered, specifically against Sporting KC and the Dynamo.
Put those performances in a different order and our attitudes change. The Galaxy basically did that - awful, awesome, good. Their fanbase looks at the Playoffs with hope and greed. If the dire days were right now Playoff hopes in Seattle would be dead.
But those hopes still exist, for some pretty good reasons.
Sagarin says the Sounders have played the 4th most difficult schedule in MLS. Seattle is fifth on the "predictor" model. If Sigi leads the team to the playoffs, they will most likely face a team Sagarin rates as worse in the first round. Red Bull could only be met in the MLS Cup Final. San Jose probably does not make the Playoffs if Seattle does (though they could). That leaves Dallas and LA. Which is kind of frightening. Certain results and Sunday could mean Seattle having to beat both of them, which would obviously be a tough task.
You won't find hope for beating those two in the Sagarin numbers, but the hope to win a round or two in the Playoffs is pretty clear from that system.
But, that same "disappointing" run-in that the Sounders have, that 4-2-4 +5 since the window closed, that's better than LA's run-in. Some of that is because LA got blown away by Portland. But even without that one loss, they were only 4-2-2 +4 and had given up more goals than the Sounders. Most of our Galaxy fears are based on a few nightmarish results, but there's every reason to think we match up reasonably well now.
Portland surged ahead of Seattle on the post-window Western Conference standings because of that blow-out win. Prior to that they had eight goals in nine post-window matches, with an atypically good defense that only gave up eight in nine.
KC and Vancouver have been horrible since the window closed.
San Jose and Dallas have both been great. Again, the Earthquakes probably don't make the MLS Cup Playoffs if Seattle does.
Dallas is scary good. They're in form (even if I don't believe form is predictive); they'll probably win the Shield; like Seattle, when they're at their best they are a complete team. Our fears of the Galaxy are based on the past and completely irrational and I cannot destroy them with silly numbers.
But there is hope for the 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs, just as long as Seattle makes it.