Despite a middling 8-6-3 record since returning from the Gold Cup break, the Seattle Sounders can claim the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference with a win over Minnesota United on Sunday. Here’s what we hope to see in that game:
Don’t let Ozzie enjoy this too much
The Sounders have some sort of ceremony planned for Osvaldo Alonso before the game (we’re told it will be tastefully done considering he’s on the other team). Ideally, that’s the only moment of joy he experiences during the game.
We know Alonso is going to be plenty motivated for this game and that even at his diminished state he is still capable of dominating individual matches. Hopefully, the Sounders are able to limit him the way they did during their first meeting in Minnesota. Alonso was limited to just one successful tackle, one interception and six recoveries. It wasn’t a bad performance, per se, but it wasn’t particularly notable either. That would be just fine again.
Take advantage of set pieces
Minnesota United are among the worst teams in the league in allowing set-piece goals. With 11 goals allowed this year from set pieces, that puts them second-to-last for teams who qualified for the playoffs. Only the New England Revolution are worse, with 14 goals allowed from set pieces.
No, your hunch is not wrong. The Sounders aren’t very good at scoring from set plays. They’re 14th in the league, with just 7 goals scored. As we enter a winner-takes-2nd-place game and then the playoffs, the Sounders need to find ways to capitalize on opponents’ weaknesses, even if they’re not an inherent strength for Seattle.
Redeem the season
It’s of course hyperbole to suggest that winning the season finale at home is enough to erase the frustrations of this season, but it would allow the Sounders to finish on a note closer to the one we expected after they opened the season 5-0-1. A win will give the Sounders 56 points, which would be their fourth-highest total ever and could push them as high as third in the Supporters’ Shield standings.
More than the positioning itself, is what it means. The Sounders would be guaranteed to host at least one playoff game, would be in line to host the conference semifinals if they advance, and could theoretically luck out into hosting the conference finals and even MLS Cup. That would obviously take a lot of help elsewhere in the bracket, but it will certainly beat what could happen if they lose.
A loss could drop the Sounders as low as No. 5 in the West and as low as eighth overall. That effectively eliminates the possibility of playing any home games in the playoffs no matter how far they go.
Let the attack fly
As of this publishing, Victor Rodriguez’s availability is in doubt. We’re crossing our fingers that he’s at least fit enough to get onto the field. If he does, this will mark the first time since the fourth game of the season that the Sounders have managed to play their four first-choice attacking players in the same game. In case you needed a reminder, the Sounders scored 10 goals in those four games and looked like they might score 100 if they were able to keep that group together.
The good news is that even if Rodriguez can’t go, it looks like Nicolas Lodeiro will at least be available after missing the two previous games. Combined with Jordan Morris and Raúl Ruidíaz, the Sounders should be well equipped either way.
It’s been a long, arduous journey for the Gold Elevator in 2019...— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) October 4, 2019
Is everything about to change? pic.twitter.com/AQyfXCa5f5
If you’ve been to a Sounders game in the last two years, you’ve probably noticed that there’s a halftime race on the Jumbotron between different colored Space Needle elevators. It’s the Sounders’ version of the Hydro-Boat Races the Mariners have done since the Kingdome days. You’ve probably also followed along with the Gold Elevator’s lack of, um, success. Is this the match where the Gold Elevator finally wins, or are the Sounders just teasing us? We’ll have to see.
This is about the best lineup we can have this season, especially in the attacking parts of the field. With Xavier Arreaga suspended, the Sounders will need to slot Roman Torres next to Kim Kee-hee for this one. There’s an argument to be made to play Morris on his preferred left side, but Victor Rodriguez has only played on the right twice for the Sounders, and that was back in 2017. So, we expect Morris to continue his form on the right side of the field, with lots of switching to the left if he needs to.