TUKWILA, Wash. — With at least a point against 2018 Wooden Spoon winners San Jose Sunday, the Seattle Sounders can finish no lower than fourth place in the Western Conference standings. Still, it is clear that the club is pushing to end the season on a high note and launch itself into the playoffs with a victory.
“We need to get a result,” Brian Schmetzer said at training Friday. “Would I love to see us play really good soccer and end the season with five wins in a row and get the three points and get a bye? Yes, but the important thing is to win the match. The second most important thing is how we win the match. The points are key.
“The game becomes the most important focus. The how, the why, the where, the when, that’s what we’re focusing on, making sure our team is right. We’re not quite sure how San Jose is going to line up. Their lineup choices: Is he [newly appointed coach Matias Almeyda] going to play young guys? Does he want to see the future? There are some things that make it challenging to scout San Jose. Obviously, we know Wondo [Chris Wondolowski] and he’s scored a pile of goals against us, so we’ll prepare on that. But other than that we’ve got to focus on ourselves and make sure that we close out this particular game.”
It might not be difficult for the Sounders to win pretty Sunday. The offense has been flying in recent fixtures, scoring 13 goals in its last four outings. While some slip-ups at the back have made a few of those games close at the end, Seattle has looked plugged in offensively.
Still, if Wondolowski can find another bottle of whatever magic he has traditionally broken out for matches against the Sounders, there might be a certain thematic justice to a gritty Seattle win on Sunday, a characteristic that allowed the club to go on a historic winning streak.
“I think it’s unprecedented,” Schmetzer said of potentially going 14-2-1 in the second half. “That’s very impressive. I am so proud of that group of guys.
“A lot of people counted us out. That group of players in there never quit, never stopped believing that they could. Overcame obstacles, hurdles. Figured out ways to win. How to win ugly. The soccer wasn’t always great but they figured out how to win. That’s impressive. You could almost say that this season is a success in many ways based on where we came from. We all know that the goal is to get back to MLS Cup, that’s the goal. But it has start somewhere. You’ve got to make the playoffs. This team has accomplished that from a very tough situation.”
Seattle won’t be looking past the 4-20-9 Earthquakes, but if the Sounders win, they will at least tie for the most wins in the Western Conference. For a team that looked like it was headed for their first-ever playoff-less season, that would be the sort of late-season turnaround that propels teams to postseason glory.