On the morning of Saturday 8/29, the Sounders sat in 7th place - below the red line - and were preparing for what might end up being the most important game of the year. It wasn't a pretty affair, but we did the work and took the 3 points. Now, the outlook is much brighter. There is, of course, much work left to be done. If we falter, we WILL miss the playoffs. However, I can't help but feel that fate is shifting - our luck is changing. We are changing our luck.
While we're missing Roman Torres and Marco Pappa, we have:
#3, Brad Evans to fill in at CB, just as he had before La Boda de Las Tarjetas Rojas.
#6, Osvaldo Alonso - The Honeybadger, back in the midfield - El Corazon.
#9, Obafemi Martins, back at forward to score our goals and flip our flips.
If we beat Toronto, we can leapfrog 3 teams to take 3rd place in the west. If results go our way, at just after 9pm on 9/9, we will remain in 3rd place with 6 games to go and will be in 6th place in The Supporters Shield Race.
This is something we want. We must have it. Oh mighty deity of the beautiful game, bring us these results:
First, the obvious one - The Sounders must beat TFC. This would normally be a nervous-making match. Toronto has plenty of attacking talent with three big-time DPs: Bradley, Giovinco and Altidore. A week ago, it was looking like we might lose Dempsey and Evans for this match, as they were called away to national duty while Bradley was allowed to stay behind and travel to Seattle...but oh, our luck is changing. While Bradley was allowed to stay with TFC, Giovinco is out injured, Jozy is called away to the USMNT, and neither Deuce nor Evans was called away. Only Torres and Pappa will definitely be missing from the Sounders lineup. If Ozzie can go 60+, Evans can slot back in at CB. In addition, it is looking more and more like Dempsey will be available, which might mean Valdez on the wing for part of the match. We will be back to the team that terrorized MLS earlier in the year PLUS Valdez. Momentum is shifting. We just need to take care of business, and make absolutely certain that Herc does not foil our plans (again).
The Philadelphia Union travel to San Jose. It's very, very unlikely that the hapless Union can even steal a point against a hot San Jose team in Avaya...right?? It's true. The Union are bad. They are even worse on the road. It is also true that San Jose is one of the hottest teams in MLS. They play all but two remaining games at home. Dominic Kinnear is a scary coach when he starts to smell playoffs. However - again - luck is shifting our way (do you feel it?). Stranger things have happened. San Jose will be without a lot of their wide speed with Cato and Nyassi both called away by their countries. In addition, Pelosi and Godoy have also been called away by US U23 and Panama respectively. All four of those players have featured, either in a starting roles or as subs, in all four of the Earthquakes recent wins. Cato and Godoy started all four of those matches. Philadelphia will be missing only Andre Blake, who has only started two games this season after coming back from injury. This could be a trap game for San Jose. If their fans decide to bet on this one, they better be ready to lose their ... oh ... uh ... never mind.
New England hosts Orlando. If Orlando can take just a point here, it pushes the Revs further down the Shield Table. We want that. An OCSC win would be even better. They flatter us by modelling their game experience after us, and they made us look very good on the pitch when we needed it most. Thanks Orlando.
Lastly, Montreal hosts Chicago. Please let this be a 9-9 affair filled with Sean-John saves and wonder-shots. Beyond that, the result here truly doesn't matter. These are not good teams this year. If a tree falls in the forest, Levesque. Because.
The Sounders wake up, look at the standings and - what's that? - up to 3rd place in the West!! Sweeeet!
There is one game on Sunday, and it is the POSTER CHILD for why MLS MUST start respecting international windows. FC Dallas travel to Columbus. This would typically be a game Dallas should lose. However, this is not a typical week. The Crew will be without league-leading goal scorer Kei Kamara, typical starters Justin Meram, Waylon Francis, Harrison Afful and Wil Trapp, and reserve players Kevan George, Ben Speas, Cedrick Mabwati and Sergio Campbell. Dallas will be without Fabián Castillo, Blas Pérez, Tesho Akindele and Je-Vaughn Watson - all starters over the last few games. Both teams sit on 41 points. Dallas is a very good team. However, they have dropped 6 of 12 on the road with only 3 road wins. That's 1.0 ppg on the road. Columbus, meanwhile, has lost only TWO of FOURTEEN at home, while winning 8 and drawing 4. That's 2.0 ppg at home on the nose. Who knows what will happen in this reserve-heavy game. If Dallas loses, Seattle stays in 3rd place...so we wish it to be so.
There are two big games featuring 4 western division teams.
Twigs vs. Sporks. Both are relatively ineffective tools you should only reach for as a last resort. Speaking of tools, Will Johnson will either be with Canada or injured. Chara will be out, because he's a dirty player. Besler will be away on USMNT duty. Krisztián Németh will have just returned from Europe and will likely be unavailable. Sporting KC fans have to be feeling blue as this past few weeks of results have been hell. They can't seem to take the heat from the cauldron that is the MLS playoff run. Since the 5-0 spanking they took AT HOME courtesy of San Jose, they have lost to the Crew and the lowly Rapids. Despite having been positioned to make a real run at the Shield with games-in-hand, they are instead left questioning where things started to go wrong. Now they have to deal with fixture congestion and some difficult games. Suddenly, this game probably feels more important that ever. Portland on the other hand, apparently plays great every game, but is
often always cheated out of the results they deserve. They know we are breathing down their necks. They will surely take on the great character of their coach and leader and....cry in the corner? 0-0 tie here. Both teams blow golden opportunities and have thier confidence shaken. This is our wish. With a point each, they move to 41 with the Sounders, but both lag behind on the tiebreaker.
Lastly, Vancouver hosts Colorado. Lowly Colorado ....but wait! - the Rapids have won 3 in a row. The Rapids will be without new signing and starter Maynor Figueroa, DP Kevin Doyle, and Dillon Serna. Vancouver is missing only Teibert and Mattocks, niether of whom typically start. This game will be a test of Colorado's new-found confidence...but you never know. We want the Rapids to keep rolling right over the Whitecaps. Shock upset, 1-0 Rapids. The Sounders are 4 points behind Vancouver, 5 points behind LA.
The end result? The Sounders stay in 3rd in the West and 6th in the Shield Table
Make it so.