If you didn’t know by now, the Seattle Sounders are set to host a knockout round match in the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs against Sporting Kansas City on Thursday at CenturyLink Field. According to ESPN’s Paul Carr, the Sounders are the more favored, with a 65% chance of winning and eliminating Sporting Kansas City. What isn’t surprising, though, is that all four teams hosting a match in the knockout round are the clear favorites.
Sunday’s Decision Day game felt great. Winning at home and securing a playoff spot made this year’s triumphs and failures all worth it. Yesterday’s win, was the cherry on top of a rocky road sundae. Fans were pretty sure the Sounders could pull it off, but looking back at the Houston Dynamo match, nothing was 100%.
It’s no secret that home teams have always been the clear favorites in MLS, regular season or not. Just look at the Portland Timbers this year; they won the MLS Cup in 2015 and did not win a single away match in 2016. Hosting a match during the playoffs in a single-elimination round guarantees an advantage and puts us in a place to come out on top. But, what if we were getting ready for an away game? Carr says, “were the home teams reversed, all four of the current underdogs would be favored to advance instead.”
My piece on SPI projections for the @MLS knockout round and the entire playoffs. Home-field matters this week. https://t.co/0FK1d6Urta pic.twitter.com/WhxsRgbx8G— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) October 24, 2016
As optimistic as fans are about the Sounders, their road woes went from plain ridiculous to okay. Road games are tough, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Winning at StubHub Center against the LA Galaxy pumped everyone up but then losing to FC Dallas was a small blow. The Sounders have been great away (Galaxy game) and horrendous away (Kansas City). But, that’s also not the case here. Seattle has put itself in a good position to move on to the conference semis. Midweek matches are tough and playing at home gives us that little boost. Is it luck, skill, or is it the way of the world that got us to where we are now?
Whatever it was, Sunday’s result was massive. Not only did Seattle make the greatest comeback MLS has ever seen, but it proved to every other MLS team that Seattle is a threat. An MLS Cup would be difficult, but not impossible. Carr’s statistics favors the New York Red Bulls or Dallas to win the cup, with the Sounders coming in with a 7% chance. Those odds aren’t really in Seattle’s favor, but anything can happen, right?