The last time the Seattle Sounders played at Colorado, they were five games into the season and still looking for their first win.
When they return Saturday, they will look for the victory that would secure their place in the Major League Soccer playoffs, keep them atop the Western Conference and perhaps return them to the top of the Supporters Shield race.
“If that was (a) turning point, it was,” midfielder Brad Evans said. “I don’t know if that was the reason we went on a good run of form. We focus on now.”
Now, the Sounders control their destiny on their major goals. In the short term, another win at Colorado would clinch a playoff spot and keep them at least even with Real Salt Lake atop the West. A win also would send them to the top of the Supporters Shield race, if combined with a New York loss or draw at home Saturday against New England.
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If the Sounders win out, they clinch the Supporters Shield, no matter what anyone else does.
That puts them a long way from where they were April 20, when they arrived at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo., with a 0-3-2 record. They left with a 1-0 victory.
That breakthrough came on the combination of a 27th-minute goal by Obafemi Martins and a clean sheet by Michael Gspurning.
“It was an important win,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “It was important for us to get that win on the road because I think we went on the road and got (a draw at Philadelphia and another win at Kansas City). So those things are important, to re-establish that we are a good road team. We’ve had good success with Colorado in the past. We hope to continue that. I think the field suits us a little bit, and we just have to go out there with the same concentration and focus that we did the last time.”
The Sounders will be without designated player Clint Dempsey and central defender Djimi Traore. They remained home because of hamstring injuries.
For all of their improvement since that first game at Colorado, the Sounders weren’t able to duplicate it when the Rapids visited Seattle in July. Then, the clubs played to a 1-1 draw — a rare disappointment in a series the Sounders have dominated, 8-1-2.
“Historically we’ve done well against them at home,” Evans said. “This is going to be a tough test, playing away from home against a team that’s a very good team. They’ve completely turned it around, have a lot of quality players and they’re playing well at the right time. I think this will be an extremely challenging game.”
Colorado is 7-2-4 over its past 13 matches. Yet, the Rapids lead San Jose by one point in the race for the fifth and final Western Conference playoff spot.
In that way, this game is every bit as important to them as it is to the Sounders.
“You can’t take a game off,” Schmid said. “There’s not a game where you’re going to go out there and say, ‘Well, these guys ... might not be in it, so we don’t have to be in it focused and mentally completely prepared.’ No, these games are all games that we need to be completely prepared for, and it will harden us as we move forward to the playoffs.”
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (15-8-6; 51 POINTS) AT COLORADO RAPIDS (12-9-9; 45)
7 p.m., Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colo.
TV: NBCSports. Radio: 97.3-FM.
Head-to-head: Seattle leads 8-1-2 overall and 3-1-1 in Colorado. This season, the Sounders took a 1-0 road win in April and played to a 1-1 home draw in July.
Notes: Seattle would clinch a playoff spot with a victory. ... Seattle is tied with Real Salt Lake for the Western Conference lead. Colorado holds the fifth and final playoff spot in the West, one point ahead of San Jose. ... The Sounders are on a league-best seven-game unbeaten streak (5-0-2). The Rapids are 2-2 over their past four matches. ... Colorado is 8-3-4 at home, and Seattle is 5-7-2 away. ... The Sounders are 11-3-1 all time in October. ... Sounders designated player Clint Dempsey (hamstring) and defender Djimi Traore (hamstring) didn’t travel. The availability of defender Leo Gonzalez (hip) and reserve goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann (flu) was questionable. ... Rookie Deshorn Brown leads Colorado in goals (seven), shots (86) and shots on target (27). Christopher Klute is the assists leader (seven). Edson Buddle has 98 career goals. Goalkeeper Clint Irwin is tied for the club record with 10 shutouts this season. ... Seattle defender Zach Scott is one caution away from suspension for accumulation. ... The referee is David Gantar.
Quotable: “They’ve got a lot of size to their team now with Buddle out there. They’ve added (Gabriel) Torres ... who’s another big guy. When they get set pieces and they throw (Shane) O’Neill forward and (Drew) Moor, and if Atiba Harris is on the field, they’re a dangerous set-piece team.” – Sounders coach Sigi Schmid on the Rapids.
Next: The Vancouver Whitecaps visit CenturyLink Field at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org/soccer