KANSAS CITY, KAN. – With a second U.S. Open Cup tucked safely away in the trophy case, Seattle Sounders FC now sets its sights on a double.
The Sounders can’t advance in CONCACAF Champions League.
And they also have been eliminated from this season’s Supporters’ Shield race.
However, when the Sounders take the pitch today, they resume their quest for the most prestigious trophy in U.S./Canadian soccer: MLS Cup.
The crucial first step is qualifying for the playoffs, and the Sounders will clinch that today with a win or a draw against the Wizards.
“I sound like a broken record, but we’re going to try to win every competition and championship that we can – MLS Cup included,” general manager Adrian Hanauer said.
“First things first: We have to make it into the playoffs.”
The math greatly favors that, as the Sounders have three games remaining to clinch: at Kansas City today, at home vs. Western Conference cellar-dweller Chivas USA next week, and at Houston for the final game of the regular season.
However, even sweeping those games would not be enough for the Supporters’ Shield, which goes to the team with the best record during the MLS regular season.
When Los Angeles beat Chivas USA on Sunday, the Galaxy earned its 53rd point of the season and therefore was out of reach of the Sounders, who have 42 points with three games left.
Simple arithmetic also has rendered meaningless Seattle’s final game in the CONCACAF Champions League. The club cannot advance, regardless of the result when group play concludes Oct. 19, with Saprissa visiting Qwest Field.
However, the Sounders are currently Major League Soccer’s hottest team. And they believe that if they can get into the playoffs, even as a low seed, they will have a legitimate shot at winning the title – as bottom-seeded Real Salt Lake did last season.
“If we make it into the playoffs, we think we have as good a chance as any of the eight teams,” Hanauer said.
“Again, we’re playing good soccer. I don’t think anyone wants to play us in the playoffs – assuming we qualify. And it would be amazing for me and for the club to win two championships in the same year.”
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid has said similar things.
And he said that winning a pressure loser-out competition like U.S. Open Cup can only help.
Also useful, he said, was the exhilaration his players felt in hoisting the Open Cup trophy, and in showering each other with champagne in the winner’s locker room.
“The feeling you have right now and the memory they’ll carry away from this game has to spur them on to create another memory like this,” Schmid said after the 2-1 Open Cup-clinching win over Columbus.
“... We’ve got to get focused again, we’ve got to get on with it. Once you have this taste in your mouth, you want to do it again.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer