TUKWILA, Wash. – Thanks to Sporting KC upsetting St. Louis City in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs, the Seattle Sounders are now the top remaining seed in the Western Conference. That means they’re three home games away from qualifying for their fifth MLS Cup.
Of course, they need to win each of those three games. The first one is on Friday, a winner-take-all affair with FC Dallas after they split the first two games in their best-of-3 series.
“If you had told us at the beginning of the season that we’d have three home games to make MLS Cup that would be incredible,” said Sounders forward Jordan Morris, who has scored in each of the past two games and now has eight career playoff goals. “I think everyone is relishing in that opportunity.
“But we have to take it one game at a time, and it all starts with Dallas.”
The Sounders said they are expecting a crowd of about 33,000 – effectively the current capacity – thanks to strong single-game ticket sales following Saturday’s loss.
Aside from playing at home where the Sounders are riding an 18-match postseason unbeaten streak – technically the second-longest streak in MLS history – they also have a rather decisive big-game experience advantage. Of the Sounders’ projected starters, only Josh Atencio and Jackson Ragen have never started in a cup final. They’ve also got players available off the bench like Nicolás Lodeiro, Raúl Ruidíaz, Fredy Montero, Héber and Xavier Arreaga who have significant big-game experience as well.
“That’s what this team is built for,” Morris said. “It’s nice to look at the guy next to you and know they’re ready for the game, and we have that.”
The one big wrinkle to this game is that it's the third straight time the Sounders and Dallas have faced off.
"We always knew Dallas was going to be a tough opponent and getting through this best-of-3 format is different," Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said. "We know who they are and they know who we are."
Reed Baker-Whiting is the only player listed on the Sounders’ injury report, but will likely be available after completing Thursday’s training session. Schmetzer did note that this was Baker-Whiting’s first full training session since straining his hamstring in the regular-season finale about two weeks ago, and gave himself a little wiggle room.
“I’ll have a conversation with him to see how he’s feeling,” Schmetzer said.
João Paulo, who has been managing some discomfort in his knee, is also expected to be fully available.