No, the race to make the MLS Cup Playoffs will not be over if the Seattle Sounders lose to the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday (7:30 PM, JOEtv). Instead their road becomes even closer to a literal must-win for every single match..
Winning on Saturday gives the Sounders some room in latter matches. San Jose is one of the three teams competing for what is basically a single playoff spot - Timbers, Earthquakes and Sounders. It is why the loss at Portland hurt a bit. Losing two in a row to the teams competing for the same seed would make the path even more difficult.
Key MLS match for the playoffs this weekend looks like San Jose-Seattle. Could be the end for the Sounders. Or not. pic.twitter.com/2JWFV7dSSn— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) September 8, 2016
The numbers from Sports Club Stats are similar. A win (weighted method) moves the Sounders above a 50% chance of making the playoffs. That is just 47% by their 50/50 method. A loss drops their chances below 20% no matter the method (SPI, SCSw, SCS.5).
A quick guide to the other matches: root for Real Salt Lake to beat the Timbers, the Crew to beat the Whitecaps (that nearly ends Vancouver’s season), a non-win by Sporting KC (on the off chance Seattle can get the 5 seed).
The good news is that the Sounders still effectively control their own fate. They can still pass the Timbers by winning their two games in hand and can pass the Earthquakes by simply winning this game. But this Saturday’s game is their last chance to directly take points from one of the teams they’re chasing. A loss would also leave them needing help in order to qualify for a eighth consecutive post season.
With Schmetzer in charge they’ve talked much more about being proactive within games. Saturday’s match is their chance to be proactive in the season. A win means they don’t need to stare at the out-of-town scoreboard. Due to games in hand and points per game the chance that they pass Portland is there. The Timbers’ upcoming CCL matches should help strain them a bit.
A loss... it would hurt. Seattle does not have a games-in-hand advantage on San Jose. It would be the functional end of the season, and in some ways give hope to even Vancouver.