The Seattle Sounders are a team with a desire to win, this has been proven from day one with their 3-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls. Since then Seattle has won four U.S. Open Cups, an MLS Supporter's Shield, and has made the playoffs every year of their existence in Major League Soccer.
This year hasn't been too different than previous years except for the expectation of the fan base. Winning has become a norm in Seattle for the fans and the team. Yet at this stage of the season the winning has been stagnant causing even the most faithful of fans to have some fears and PANIC about not making the playoffs.
Looking at it in a different light we can ask, how has Seattle made the playoffs every year and what was the result? Can that knowledge help us put this season in perspective and temper our fear?
2009 playoffs - 47 pts 12-7-11 (4th overall) Lost to Houston Dynamo in Western Conference semifinals
2010 playoffs - 48 pts 14-10-6 (6th overall) Lost to LA Galaxy in Western Conference semifinals
2011 playoffs - 63 pts 18-7-9 (2nd overall) Lost to Real Salt Lake in Western Conference semifinals
2012 Playoffs - 56 pts 15-8-11 (7th overall) Lost to LA Galaxy in Western Conference finals
2013 Playoffs - 52 pts 15-12-7 (6th overall) Lost to Portland Timbers in Western Conference semifinals
2014 Playoffs - 64 pts 20-10-4 (1st overall) Lost to LA Galaxy in Western Conference Finals
The Seattle Sounders playoff history can be summed up as "consistent and predictable". Consistently finishing the season in the top seven of the league, and always advancing to the playoffs. The predictable part comes in the results of the playoffs, six straight years of defeat and three at the feet of our biggest playoff rival LA Galaxy.
Compare our history to the 2015 season and there are some stark differences. Seattle has eight games remaining and sits in sixth position in the Western Conference but only ninth overall. As history has shown the Sounders have never finished lower than seventh overall. Looking at Seattle's current record 11-13- 2 history tells us this will be the most loses in a season, but we can take solace in the fact that with eight games remaining Seattle should surpass 12 wins which is the Sounders lowest in their history. Looking at points the Sounders will need twelve points to tie their lowest point total of 47, this can be accomplished with four wins in the last eight games (we all want more wins obviously).
What wasn't consistent or predicted for Major League Soccer in the 2015 season was the strength of the Western Conference. As exSlacker pointed out so eloquently a "dogfight between six teams for three playoff spots is brewing" as league parity grew exponentially in the west compared to seasons past.
The unpredictable part for the Seattle Sounders has been injuries, national team call ups, and their bench. Like in years past injuries have happened only this year they have happened at the most inopportune time and to the most relied upon players (Martins, Dempsey, Evans, Alonso, Barrett). National team call ups have also been part of years past, but this year Seattle had three players (Evans, Dempsey, Pappa) in their starting eleven get called up for the month long Gold Cup, mix in the injuries and it was a perfect storm of uncertainty. The final unpredictable part was Seattle's bench, the bench is deep but inexperienced in Major League Soccer, that inexperience has been exposed at times but has also excelled at times. Put all three of these unpredictable scenarios together and this has been a really bad summer of soccer in Seattle.
Knowing this year has been vastly different from years past, Seattle's consistency and predictability has been turned upside down. Knowing the playoffs hang in the balance, injuries still prevent Seattle from putting the best eleven on the field coupled with national team call ups (Clint Dempsey, Brad Evans, Marco Pappa, Roman Torres, Andreas Ivanschitz, Nelson Valdez, and potentially Obafemi Martins) and the first two weeks of September could be a real problem for the Sounders.
As fans we can still say Hay Fe because the silver lining this year is that Seattle has struggled on so many different fronts yet still controls their playoff destiny. As it stands today Seattle would start in the Knockout Round on Wednesday, Oct. 28 or Thursday, Oct. 29. The Conference Semifinals will take place over two consecutive weekends, Oct. 31-Nov. 1 and Nov. 7-8.
Following a FIFA break from Nov. 9 - 17, the Conference Championship matches will begin on Nov. 21-22 and close out Nov. 28-29. These matches this year as Seattle found out last year will again be 2-game aggregate goal series. The MLS Cup will be hosted by the team with the better regular season record on Dec. 5-6 or Dec. 12-13. For Seattle that means more than likely they would play a final on the road.
We will have to wait until October 25th to know if Seattle will be extending their season. One thing is certain, it's time for that consistency and predictability to come back starting Sunday against Portland.