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It could be the best of times, it could be the worst of times

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There are different paths the Sounders can take to finish out the season. Some lead to greatness. Others...

Imagine if this hadn’t been offside ... or he hadn’t gotten hurt.
Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

With five matches left to play, the Seattle Sounders are tied on points for second place in the West with two other teams. However, due to tiebreakers, they are actually in fourth place, and if the season ended today, would host the San Jose Earthquakes in the single-game knock-out round of the MLS Cup Playoffs.

But the season doesn't end today. Teams have anywhere from four to six games remaining to make their move up or down the table, to cement their positions, and to chase the dream of eternal glory that is the MLS Cup. The Sounders have as good a chance as any team in the West. They're six points above the red line and one point below conference leaders Vancouver, a team they face once more this season. Destiny is in our hands.

A Pessimist's Future

44 points in 29 games played. Has a team ever made the playoffs with only 44 points? Yes, the Union did that last year.

Guess we'd better win our home games and draw on the road. But first we play Real Salt Lake? They're young and fast. Our center backs are slow and old. They've also won four of their last six. And they’ve scored 10 goals in their past three home games while only conceding two! Yikes! We might be lucky to get out of Utah with a draw.

Then we play Vancouver Whitecaps mid-week. Another Cascadia opponent on short rest. Why does the league do that? Vancouver has given us fits this year, what with their fouling and diving and really tall center backs who clear every cross, and our insistence to continue crossing it over and over and over. Another referee bailout gives the Whitecaps a road victory. They're in first place. We've lost two in a row, and that red line is creeping up.

Oh great, we follow up that midweek clash with a cross-country trip to play Philadelphia Union, courtesy of Delta Airlines and their coach seats, with barely enough leg room. We only send 18. Even though we need a win, old bodies require rest despite the two week break following this game. Philly plays us rough, and dirty, knowing that getting us on the ground is a viable tactic to stopping us. We look anemic. Again. It's been seven matches since we had a favorable result. We're about to eat each other alive.

Now onto Dallas at home after the international break, the same international break that broke Roman Torres and Cristian Roldan, who are now slated to miss the rest of the season due to injuries. Clint Dempsey broke the USMNT scoring record and promptly retired, despite the USMNT losing both matches and missing out on the 2018 World Cup. Dempsey starts tweeting camping and hunting photos mid-match. The Sounders, desperate for bodies, rush Jordan Morris back. In the 4th minute his hamstring explodes in a gruesome display, baffling scientists for decades to come. The Sounders’ will is broken. We fall below the red line.

Colorado comes into town, riding a seven game unbeaten run. The Sounders are winless in eight. It's an ugly match. The battered and beaten Sounders simply go through the motions. The Rapids take their cue and score a few bewildering goals that are both in contention for Goal of the Year. They'd go on to tie for the distinction, a first in this league. A chorus of boos linger over the field for the entirety of the match. Dozen-Free-Range-Egg night seems a bad idea in retrospect.

For the first time in their MLS era, the Sounders miss the playoffs.

Brian Schmetzer quits. Everybody cries.

Harry Redknapp is hired. Everybody cries harder.

A Realist's Future

Draw - Win - Draw - Win - Win.

Seattle, inexplicable, end the season on an 18-match unbeaten run. We end at 55 points, good for second in the West. We end up playing Portland in the Conference Semis. We lose for the first time in almost five months. Jordan Morris played briefly in that match. On the return home leg, Morris starts. He scores an early goal and we advance on penalties. Daniel Radford was the fourth official and Clint Dempsey flips him off after the match. Cameras caught it. He's suspended two matches.

Sporting Kansas City travels for the first leg in the Conference Finals. Vermes tells his players to do Vermes things and they do just that. It's infuriating. It's anti-football. The commentators love it. We get no less than four shots of Clint Dempsey in the press-box and two replays of him giving Radford the finger. Taylor Twellman contends he's not certain it even happened.

The Sounders don't advance. We don't make it to the finals. Sporting plays Toronto in the battle of who-dives-the-best. Nobody wins. Everybody loses. Viewership for the final is pathetic. MLS hipsters ironically change the channel to watch bowling, which beats the Final in ratings.

MLS brass shakes up the playoff structure for the next season. It's meant to reinvigorate the fans and eliminate the long delay in the middle of the playoffs. Too little too late. Vermes is named Coach of the Year and the state of Kansas, in a bold move, renames their state to Vermes.

An Optimist's Future

44 Points in 29 games played. A strong finish will earn the Sounders a first round bye. That sounds nice.

Seattle travels to play Real Salt Lake on Saturday, playing the recently-above-the-red-line squad at Rio Tinto. The once vaunted fortress in Sandy has now seen the Scarlet and Clarets drop points more often than not this season, with seven wins out of 15 matches played. RSL features a young team, still convalescing into something tangible, and they will face the black hole that is the Sounders defense. One goal is all it will take to win this game. Enter Lamar Neagle. Exit Stage Left Nick Rimando. Hello first place.

Next up is a midweek tilt against former first place usurpers, Vancouver, a team that will be dropping points against lowly Colorado, a game which will be ugly, which will see multiple Whitecaps suspended for their upcoming Cascadia match. Sorry, Fredy Montero. Sorry, Tony Tchani. A competent referee won't save you now, Vancouver. Seattle's offense breaks out of their slump and begins anew. If tacos and haircuts were still a thing, we'd all be mighty full and looking fly. And look, we just broke 50 points. Cool.

Who's next? What? Philadelphia Union? In Philly? After a midweek game? Who scheduled this? Ugh. "Hey Seattle, how about you play a playoff implication game at elevation, then a midweek Cascadia Cup match, then travel all the way across the country to the City of Brotherly Love? You're welcome." Jerks. Whatever. It's the Union. They haven't won since, like six matches ago. Our rejuvenated offense will score so many goals they'll be ringing the Liberty Bell for mercy. Easy. 16 unbeaten.

Two weeks later, Dallas comes to Seattle, seeking penance for the unrequested nap we all endured this past Saturday. The penitent man will find no quarter here. Dallas will be eliminated from the playoffs already. Oscar Pereja will have received assurances that he will not be fired during the offseason, so he sends a bunch of 16- and 17-year-olds to play. Guess who's not only going home without any points from a once-important away match, but also isn't going to be getting any postgame orange slices? You almost start to feel bad for them. I mean, they have to live in Dallas (Frisco) for crying out loud. Poor kids. 56 points. Better than all but two teams in the league.

Season finale. This is what it comes down to. Our postseason preseason match to sharpen our senses. Colorado Rapids enter Seattle as lambs to the slaughter, simply honored to grace the same field as us. At some point, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard will be chest to chest exchanging heated words. The rest of the Rapids mail it in, ready for a long, arduous season to be over, grateful for the end. The Sounders gladly deliver the final blow, the death knell to a rotten season. Who knows, maybe they'll be fighting for the ignominious honor of being the worst team in the league, wanting, hoping for that first pick in the SuperDraft. This could get ugly. Records could be set. Widows weaping.

Playoffs.

Number one seed.

We'll face some loser who barely scraped by in the knock-out round. We'll dismantle them systematically. A slow suffocation will kill their chances, a boot to the throat, ever increasing the pressure. The home match is just a formality, played to honor the ancient rules, to fully absorb the defeated souls of the fallen.

The Conference Finals will be hard to watch. We'll be screaming mercy from our seats, as our opponents are well and truly dead, yet the Sounders are unrelenting. Somewhere deep inside of us, a kindness we never knew existed suddenly appears. We pity them, not out of disgust but from compassion. No person should endure this, let alone a collection of persons once resembling a team. Seattle shows no mercy. Speechless and afraid, we weep for the future.

The MLS Cup Final is played in Toronto. Media pundits and media idiots make a big deal about the MLS Cup Final rematch, a redemption story for the greatest MLS team ever. The Sounders recite the rote words, automatons repeating a script. The game is played. It's cold outside. It's a blowout, but it isn't. Countless times, the Sounders could score. Countless times, the Sounders should score. But they never shoot. They walk the ball to the goalline and stop it on the frozen chalk. No shots registered. No goals scored. The game goes into extra time and still the Sounders refuse to shoot. Repeatedly, Toronto players beg the Sounders to end the misery, beg the Sounders to finish the game, yet Seattle denies them. The team from the East loses their minds. They pull out their hair, claw down their bodies, clearly insane.

An own goal is scored.

Not a single shot was taken.

Seattle wins.

Seattle repeats as MLS Cup Champions.

A Hyper-Aggressive Future

Right before the Sounders-RSL kickoff, an earthquake strikes the Pacific Northwest. The Earthquake. Hundreds of thousands die. It’s hard to tell. Cities are leveled. There’s no power. The only running water is that which you can scavenge from the broken mains. The border closes. There’s no national guard. JBLM is swallowed by the ground. Lawlessness prevails.

Roving bands of cannibals prowl the wasteland for survivors. Those who avoid detection head for the water, hoping to find a boat, hoping for an escape. But all the boats are gone. There is no escape.

The cold winter starts early. The first snow kills many. There’s no census here. The only numbers that matter are you, me, and my two fists.

After the short days lengthen, strangers from a distant land appear. They speak in tongues. They offer gifts. “Rescue,” they keep saying, a word so foreign only the naive will hear it. There is no escape. There is no rescue. There is no hope. There is only survival.

And I aim to survive.