I don’t know about you, but I think this has been the weirdest Seattle Sounders season ever. Nothing about it makes any sense. They’ve had great stretches and they’ve had incredibly poor stretches. Unlike other seasons, those stretches haven’t defined a large chunk of games, but rather have come and gone quickly over the course of the year. They’ve looked like the best team in the league in the same month they’ve looked like a team that won’t qualify for the playoffs. It’s been weird, but buckle up because it’s only going to get weirder from here. Let’s weird our way to MLS Cup, shall we?
No one knows how to accurately describe this team. If you spend a few minutes looking around at some MLS Cup Playoffs previews, you’ll notice no one really says anything of substance about the Sounders. I sympathize with the people who are tasked with having to constantly produce content about all 24 teams in this league, so I’m deciding to give the broader media apparatus the benefit of the doubt here. This team is really, really difficult to discuss. Trust me! I’ve been tasked with it all year. It makes sense that basically every Sounders section in these previews is just a giant shrug emoji word salad. This team has confounded me many times this season, so I get it. It’s weird. But let’s use that weirdness to our advantage.
This Saturday the Sounders will face off against FC Dallas in the playoffs for the fourth time since 2014. The Sounders have won two of those series, but each team has won two games with one series being decided by away-goals and another going to penalties. Dallas has the results advantage this year, but technically they haven’t scored on the Sounders. When the teams first met in June, the Sounders became just the fifth team in MLS history to score two own-goals in a single game. In the rematch at CenturyLink Field, the Sounders were forced to settle for a scoreless tie just a few days after their best offensive performance in months. Weird.
When the season looked like it had turned a corner after the Sounders dispatched Atlanta United with relative ease in July, they followed it up with a loss at home to Portland on two deflected goals. They then won in Houston, who was looking almost unbeatable at home. They followed that up with a 3-2 loss to a Sporting KC side that was in the middle of a tailspin. This team has lived the weirdness all season, and they’re poised to deal with whatever may come in the playoffs.
Adding to the weirdness is the giant unknown of the new playoff format. Moving the matchups to single-elimination gives the home team a significant advantage. The Sounders have home-field advantage over every team in the West not named LAFC, and will host MLS Cup against every team not named NYCFC and Atlanta. Securing the second seed also means the Sounders delay a potential matchup with LAFC until the Conference Finals, if at all. It’s not completely out of the realm of possibility for the Galaxy to Zlatan the hell out of Minnesota and LAFC. Heck, LAFC went 0-1-1 against Minnesota this year too. Between the Galaxy and Minnesota, no one has played LAFC tougher. Weirder things have happened than LAFC failing to beat either of those teams when they have not beaten them in either of their four previous meetings. That’s all I’m saying.
Serious analysis of this season has been done and will be done in other posts on this website and others. I’m here to tell you it’s OK to believe. Being optimistic takes the same amount of energy as it does to be pessimistic. I don’t blame anyone who doesn’t like the Sounders’ chances to win MLS Cup this year. That’s a perfectly acceptable position to hold. But let me ask you a question ... What if things get weird? I back this team to come out on top when things get weird. It’s what the Sounders do, after all.
Every fan of every team has to ask themselves some simple questions when the chips are down and when push comes to shove. Do you back your boys? Will these players do for you? If things get weird will this team do it for you? I don’t know about you, but my answer to the above is an emphatic yes.
I remember writing about the 4-1 loss to LAFC in April. That week is a microcosm of the season, really. They got hosed by the best team in the league, but the next week they drug that team to the mat to draw 1-1 with nine men. That week was really, really weird. Nothing about that week made any sense, and as the season worn on, that became even more true.
I don’t know everything that the future holds over the next few weeks of the playoffs. But I do know that things will get weird. Let’s use that to our advantage.