Brian Schmetzer is, generally speaking, not a big fan of ties. One of Schmetzer’s consistent talking points throughout the years has been how the Seattle Sounders never go into a game just looking for a point.
There are exceptions to that rule, however.
One was on display Wednesday. The Sounders had conceded a 66th minute goal to the Colorado Rapids, who were playing at home in the famous Mile High altitude. Although the Sounders had played reasonably well up to that point, it was looking increasingly likely that they’d be handed their second straight loss and their spot atop the Western Conference standings was about to become very precarious.
But then Léo Chú conjured a bit of magic in the 81st minute. Perfectly controlling a long pass from João Paulo, Chú broke down the left wing, created a bit of space by holding off his defender and then put in a cross that was so well placed that it was not immediately obvious which of two charging Sounders got a foot to it first.
It was far from the Sounders’ most impressive performance of the season, but it was another example of how this team has excelled at doing enough to get a result.
“I’ve gone on record saying a tie feels like a loss, but this one feels a bit different,” Schmetzer said in the postgame press conference. “The guys fought back.
“To me, right now, it feels like a well-earned point against a really tough team and sets us up for a couple of hard games. This was a critical point for us both in the standings, but up here too.”
He said that last part while pointing to his head, something for which Schmetzer has praised his players continuously this year. There have been many games where the Sounders haven’t made results look easy, but they have consistently managed to get what they needed from them.
And while a tie wasn’t literally necessary in this one, it goes a long way toward easing some potential tensions heading into the final four games of the season. First and foremost, the Sounders are now guaranteed to finish no lower than fourth in the Western Conference standings. That means they’re guaranteed at least one home playoff game for the 13th straight season. Put another way, if the Sounders just win the rest of the home games they play this year, they’ll at least be playing in a third straight MLS Cup.
That’s because the tie also allowed the Sounders to maintain their six-point lead over the Rapids and provided a bit more breathing room above Sporting KC, Saturday’s opponent. If the Sounders can win that game, they’d be guaranteed to host MLS Cup against anyone other than the New England Revolution and would be no more than one win away from clinching the West’s top spot.
Maybe we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves, though. At the very least, the Sounders showed that they can take a punch — even from one of the top teams in the Western Conference — and stay on their feet. The Rapids game marked the third time in Seattle’s past six games where they’ve faced an opponent that was sitting in the Top 5 of the league. The Sounders are now 2-0-1 in those games, despite two of them being played on the road. (The Revs, on the other hand, have not faced another Top 5 team since Week 3, when they beat an Atlanta United team about to go into a tailspin that would end in their coach being fired.)
The Sounders aren’t going to win the Supporters’ Shield, but this was just another reason to think they’ve got as good of a chance as anyone to play in MLS Cup.