MLS Cup Playoffs

Seattle Sounders Mean Mugging FC Dallas!!

Damn it feels good to be a Seattle Sounder. Western Conference Finals, here we come!!

Exactly 363 days ago, the same teams played the same game in the same stadium to the same score line. Seattle and Dallas played the second leg of the Western Conference semis in Frisco with Dallas winning 2-1 back on November 8th, 2015. Of course, with a 2-1 Seattle win in the first leg, the series went to extra time and then PKs and Dallas advanced. What a difference a year (and a 3-nil home result) makes.

Even with pulling my best Nostradamus, I was nervous during this match. I was worried we’d be the first team to blow the 3-0 lead. And it got shaky at times in the first half. Whether by design or Dallas, Ozzie and Roldan were collapsing onto our backline repeatedly for the first 45. The Hoops were running amok around the center circle and pushing the pace.

At halftime, as he has so many times under the interim tag, fresh-minted “official” head coach Brian Schmetzer made key adjustments. Ozzie and Roldan pushed their line well into midfield and held that ground. Ozzie was an absolute DESTROYER in the second half, and as our old buddy Mauro’s legs slowly remembered they’re 35 years old, the game was over. Nico had room to play taffy with a Dallas side desperate and ill-shaped, and all we needed was that one moment of brilliance. #thismoment (#thisblognotoffciallyendorsedbysounderfc)

Or rather, less brilliance than grit. Tyrone Mears just outhustled Walker Zimmerman (oh him of the hated mean mug) to Friberg’s overweighted pass. Though Zimmerman should’ve easily collected that ball, Nico, Joevin and Valdez still crashed the box. That’s hustle. That’s follow through. That’s give a damn.

Your Seattle Sounders are in the Western Conference Finals for the third time in 5 years. For the first time they won’t have to face their bugbear, the L.A. Galaxy. And, Ohhhh!, Walker Zimmerman. I’m sure your surname’s forebears will appreciate this: Danke schon für die köstlichen Schadenfreude.

I love how he impotently chases after Mears, and watches the goal before settling on a hands on head resignation. #thatmoment!!

BOLD PREDICTION: Seattle Sounders at FC Dallas

The Seattle Sounders have one eye on the Conference Finals as they play FC Dallas tonight in Frisco. After getting slobberknocked in Seattle, the Hoops are a mere speed bump to the resurgent Sounders. It would almost be easy to pity Dallas, as they lost their star creator in Mauro Diaz in Week 33 and now face near certain elimination as the #1 seed in the playoffs. But Dallas sucks. Remember how brokenhearted you were last year when they equalized, mean-mugged and won on penalty kicks? That sucked. Dallas sucks.

BOLD PREDICTION: Barring an absolute collapse, Seattle’s got this. As a Sounders fan, however, you remember what it feels like to think you have a chance to come back.

L.A. plastered us in Carson, to the familiar tune of 3-nil in the first leg of The 2012 Western Conference Finals. But I still bought tickets and sang in the rain for 2 hours on a dark and stormy night in Sodo. I saw Eddie score early, Then the man, the myth, the legend, Zach Scott, got the second right after halftime. We had almost 40 minutes to get just one more goal and force extra time and … it didn’t happen. Robbie Keane and his “cunning Irish mind” (h/t to Alan Hinton) forced a handball on Johansson and got a PK, which iced it. But up until that moment, I believed.

Dallas will very much believe they can do this. And, they technically can. They are still a very, very good team. The first 20 minutes of this game will be bananas. Dallas will come at us hard and fast, looking, like the 2012 Sounders, for that first goal early. Forced to bunker early, Seattle will hope to just weather that storm. But Schmetzer won’t park the bus, it’s not in his blood, and we all know that a single away goal punches our ticket to the Conference Finals.

Dallas may have scored 3+ goals seven times this season, but they only won with a 3+ GD twice. And Seattle’s only shipped 3+ goals three times, and haven’t since Schmetz took over. Schemtzer still can’t select his best 11 as Ivanschitz and Fernandez didn’t fly to Texas and Torres is a game-time decision, but that won’t matter. Seattle endures and J-Mo Smooth plunges the dagger: 2-1 Dallas. Mean-mug that.

Seattle Sounders Play Best Game Ever

The Seattle Sounders whupped a Treble-seeking FC Dallas side 3-0 Sunday night in Sodo. In doing so, the Sounders played the best game of their existence. Seriously. It’s gotten too late in the week for a traditional game recap, so instead I am going to recap the competition for that superlative, best game in Seattle’s MLS history.

2009: The Sounders inaugural MLS game against the New York Red Bulls. Recently promoted Seattle put a 3-0 whupping on a veteran MLS side. The game wasn’t all that memorable from a tactics standpoint, but the context was incredible. All the excitement for the club finally paid off big, with a big win in front of a big crowd. That day was absolutely magical and we were all so young and innocent.

2010: The US Open Cup Final against Columbus. I know this isn’t the first game that might jump into your head, but the Crew, back-to-back Supporters’ Shield winners and 2008 MLS Cup Champions, were a powerhouse back then. And they were all red-assed about losing Sigi, and looking to make us pay. The Crew went up 1-nil in this match before Sanna Nyassi and the boys in Rave Green came through, 2-1, to clinch back-to-back Open Cups.

2011: No single game sticks out from 2011. Man, we were good that year. 63 points and a +19 goal differential, but… yeah. No Shield and an early and embarrassing playoff exit to RSL, only set up 2012.

2012: The 1-0 nailbiter against RSL in the second leg of the Western Semis. Rimando had been unreal for 170+ minutes until Mario Martinez whipped a ball past him in the 81st minute. That goal was sooo cathartic as Seattle won it’s first playoff series and a berth in the Conference Finals. Loved the celebration too, Mario.

2013: The 2012/2013 CCL quarterfinals against Tigres saw Djimi’s and Yedlin’s wonder blasts, as Seattle became the first MLS side to eliminate a Liga MX team in modern CCL play. And those kits: Hot (love me some Cascadia Shale). And Yedlin’s hair… now that’s historic.

2014: That glorious 4-4 draw at Portland early in the year. We came back from a terrible performance to “win” this draw. The context for this game was heavy. Portland, and a recently hired Caleb Porter, had embarrassed us on our own field in the 2013 playoffs. The two rivals kicked off the game trading body blows. It was 2-2 early before Diego Chara, and the Timbers, laid the wood and took a convincing 4-2 lead, which Portland held until the 86th minute. That’s when Seattle went all medieval and Deuce finished off his hatter and notice was served: Don’t ever get comfortable Portland, you are always little brother.

2015: The Knockout Round victory over the Gals finally got the L.A. monkey off our backs. After a heartbreaking loss to Bruce Arena and Co. in our destined 2014, Seattle made short work of an underwhelming L.A. side. Only a late Keane PK kept the box score respectable for posterity, but all of the Rave Green faithful who watched the game know it was never close.

2016: Putting us in position to avenge 2015’s PK shootout loss (and Walker Zimmerman’s mean mug) to FC Dallas, and finally, FINALLY, being on the other side of a 3-0 first leg, was great. Sunday was sweet and historic and taking the cake right now. But I am soooo hoping for a bigger win on December 10th in the MLS Cup Finals.

Seattle Sounders Whup FC Dallas 3-0!!!

Your Seattle Sounders played the best playoff game in their history!!! Beating RSL 1-0 in 2012 was great. Beating L.A. last year too. But tonight we destroyed treble-chasing FC Dallas 3-0. Destroyed. De. Stroyed!!

5 games in 18 days: injuries, replacements, fatigue, irregular lineups, none of it mattered. The Seattle Sounders are thisclose! to the Western Conference Finals!!!

BOLD PREDICTION: Seattle Sounders vs. FC Dallas

Tonight in Sodo, the Seattle Sounders and FC Dallas continue their MLS Western Conference Playoff Rivalry. The two teams are meeting on the pitch in the semis for the third straight season (make it 4, considering Dallas coach Oscar Pareja coached the Rapids in Seattle’s 2013 Knockout Round victory), so the teams know each other well.

Dallas felt hard done when they were eliminated on away goals in 2014, and we reciprocated, when away goals, and a PK shootout, nipped us last year. Though with Mauro Diaz injured, Nico Lodeiro in Rave Green, and Sigi in a brief retirement, I’m predicting this year’s matchup to be something completely different.

BOLD PREDICTION:

Seattle is playing their 5th game in 19 days. Our boys are tuckered out, with Roman Torres a game-time decision tonight with a tight hammy. Brad Evans would be the next best option at CB, but he may not be 90 minutes fit. Big Chad Marshall, Thursday’s hero Valdez, Oalex and Remick are also listed as questionable.

Our fixture congestion has been bananas. Though being the higher seed in the Knockout Round while the lower seed in the semis helps, as it gave us 3 straight games in Sodo, our team is knackered. I am flabbergasted that the two teams that advanced from Thursday (Montreal and us) only got 2 days off before the semis, while Wednesday’s winners (L.A. and TFC) got 3… I guess the higher seeds deserve that bonus?

I keep waiting for Ivanschitz to be available for selection. He was doing yeoman’s work while we were enjoying our best run of the season (5 straight results, 13 pts., starting September 10th, including the 4-2 romp in Carson). We’ve employed a much spottier attack without him.

Dallas’s attack may also be sputtering. In the lone game post-Mauro Diaz, the Hoops only mustered 2 shots on target and completed just 60% of their passes in the attacking half. Pareja (who is hard guy to like), abandoned his favored 4-2-3-1 formation for a 4-4-2 in that game. He may be considering flip-flopping back to the old formation with former Sounder Mauro Rosales as a like-for-like swap for Diaz.

Okay… prediction time. I was way too optimistic on Thursday night. But a rough-and-tumble performance against the thuggery of SKC saw us through. I’m all for grit, but the Sounders need to get it together tonight if they want a positive result.

Ozzie’s frayed nerves may be another casualty of the Sounders packed dance card. Honey Badger needs to simmer. down. now. He was thisclose! to ending the Sounders season. As lame-o and whiney as both Benny Feilhaber and Peter Vermes were during and after the game, nine times out of ten, Ozzie probably sees red on that tackle.

Seattle can put themselves in a great spot with a clean sheet tonight. Both of the Seattle-Dallas semifinal matchups over the last 2 years were settled on away goals. I am thinking the Sounders “win” a nil-nil draw, but screw it. Don’t stop believing: Sounders 2-0.

Seattle Sounders On to Dallas!!

The Seattle Sounders are through to the semis!! My unbridled optimism may have been misplaced, but the Sounders gritted out a sensational, nervy performance last night against Sporting Kansas City to continue their improbable 2016 success. FC Dallas and their aspirations for the Treble will be in Sodo Sunday night.

Just real quick: doesn’t it feel soooo good to be on the other side of mercurial officiating? 2016 has seen so many horrible calls go against Seattle, but for one night, we got the breaks. And such a twist of fate couldn’t have happened against a more deserving team than SKC. Those punks won this year’s First Kick match on questionable reffing and lifted the 2012 US Open Cup on far more controversial calls.

Cry me a river, Benny:

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!! Damn it feels good to be a Sounder.

Seattle Sounders vs SKC: Bold Prediction!

The Seattle Sounders hosts Sporting Kansas City tonight in the final match of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs Knockout Round.

Seattle is hosting their 3rd Knockout Game in team history and look to stay perfect. Kansas City would love to reverse the curse of last year’s knockout game madness (2 rounds of PKs, a double-poster, goalie vs goalie). It’s crazy to think that such stalwart rivals have never met in the playoffs before (though SKC has only shared the West with Seattle for two years), and now a new chapter gets to be written in this rivalry.

BOLD PREDICTION:

I am watching the DCU-MTL game currently and am flabbergasted that Montreal, the team with all the locker room drama, is grinding out a professional result away. Despite the score in the game currently being contested, the home team holds an incredible advantage in MLS Knockout games, having won 9 of the last 11.

Other numbers look good for a Seattle win tonight. SKC has only won 3 times away this season, whereas Seattle has taken all 3 points at home 10 times. Of course the last time these two teams met in Seattle, SKC won 1-0. But other than that result, SKC’s two road wins were separated by 5 months and 3 weeks; they won 2-0 at RBNY on April 9th, and then recently dispatched the Quakes in the South Bay in late September.

The win at the Red Bulls looks great on SKC’s 2016 resume. But context: that result in New York New Jersey, came during the Red Bulls atrocious start, where they lost 6 of their first 7 matches, while only scoring 5 goals and being shut out 5 times. New York is no longer that team that lost to Sporting, and neither are the Sounders.

The context for our first home loss paints a very different picture than the score line. Oneil Fisher saw straight red on a tickytacky call in the 30th minute and SKC had over an hour to find the winner. Of course Fisher won’t be our first choice RB tonight, and Nico Lodeiro will be on the pitch, but the biggest difference will be J-Mo Smooth.

Jordan Morris, in his professional debut, was not the player he is now. He flashed potential but also began his finishing troubles in that SKC match.

Now Morris has the finishing quality to accompany his speed, vision and hustle. J-Mo with a brace. The party continues. Seattle 3-1.

Seattle Sounders Flash Playoff Preview

The Seattle Sounders pulled off the turnaround on Sunday, beating RSL 2-1 and clinching a home playoff game in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

I am stoked, stoked!, just to continue our playoffs trend (especially consider Pee Town has such trouble starting any sort of playoffs streak), and yet I am always #hellagreedy. Tempering my excitement after Sunday’s result, I continue wavering between ferocious optimism and jaded skepticism with this team. As I wrote last week, Seattle is still very much a team under construction.

Considering context, the Sounders are fielding their weakest playoff roster yet in the MLS era (though if we were to imagine such Sounders-on-Sounders crime, this team would probably make short work of the 2010 squad). We only have 1.5 DPs, we only have one solid option at forward (a rookie, no less), and our team is old and injury-prone.

And yet, 2016 could very well be the year Seattle hoists the Cup. The Western Conference has never been in such disarray. Can Seattle beat SKC, their Thursday night play-in game opponent? Yes. Though we’ve lost to them twice this season, that includes the First Kick Oniel Fisher red card game, and Sigi’s 3-nil Waterloo. SKC has a sloppy defense and a mediocre form going into the playoffs, and have yet to face Nico Lodeiro. If we win Thursday, Dallas, for the second year in a row, is our probable opponent in the semis.

Dallas, the class of the league all season, just lost Mauro Diaz for the playoffs. His absence, plus the recent departure of Fabian Castillo, has reduced Dallas to a shell of its former glory. Can Seattle beat a Diaz-less Dallas side? Most definitely yes. Severely undermanned, we were robbed of a result in Frisco just last week. With Ozzie and Brad and Valdez, and possibly Ivanschitz, we could wallop the Hoops.

That leaves, realistically (sorry RSL), either L.A. or Colorado in the Conference Finals. Regular bullies, L.A. has been inconsistent all season. Only Colorado (Colorado?! of all teams) has sustained excellent form all season and enters the playoffs healthy (add the potential return of Jermaine Jones and the Rapids are looking scary). Maybe I am naïve, but Colorado honestly doesn’t scare me all that much.

Thursday night could be the beginning of something big. As coach Schmetzer said postgame, we’re just getting started.

Seattle Sounders Look To Punch Their Ticket

The Seattle Sounder can book their place in the MLS Playoffs with a win tonight against the Houston Dynamo. Part of me cannot believe I just wrote that.

On July 24th, after falling 3-0 to SKC in Sigi’s Waterloo, Seattle were 9th in the West and averaging a lone point per game.

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-2-27-09-pmNow, just 11 matches later, we sit at 5th and 1.42 ppg. And if we win tonight we’ll be just a smidge under the magical 1.5 ppg, Sigi’s old standard for making the playoffs.

Bold Prediction: And win we should. Houston stinks. Sorry Wade Barrett, but it’s true. And they really stink away from the Bayou City, as the Dynamo only average .66 ppg on the road (still better than Portland’s whopping DONUT away from the pretensions confines of Hipstertopia). While we’re looking at decimals, check out 1.87, Seattle’s ppg at home this year (and that’s even after we lost our first 2 home games, and 5 of our first 9).

Houston’s troubles are compounded by fixture congestion, as they just played Colorado at home on Wednesday before flying across the country to face their “Western” Conference foe. Also Houston will be missing Alex, who’s on a little goal-scoring run, and Seattle will have both internationals, Jordan Morris and Nico Lodeiro back in Rave Green.

Long story short: Houston is in deep trouble. Seattle emphatically punches their ticket to the dance. Sounders 3-0.

Seattle Sounders at Vancouver Whitecaps: Bold Prediction

The Seattle Sounders lucked out Saturday night as the MLS Western Conference decided to roll out the red carpet. The Sounders now have a clear path to the playoffs and may even host in the knockout round.

Portland, Sporting Kansas City, L.A. and RSL all lost last night. The Timbers, hoping to nip our heels, fell 1-nil at Colorado, and SKC, the team directly above the Sounders, fell 3-1 to the redhot Revolution in New England. The icing on the cake was that RSL, once upon a seemingly untouchable at 4th in the West, fell 2-1 to San Jose. After these three results, Seattle not only seemingly has the playoffs on lock, but could potentially leapfrog all the way to 4th place.

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-2-41-39-amNot too long ago, Seattle sat mired in 9th place in the West. Back then, San Jose and Seattle were competing to see which cellar dweller could leverage their games in hand and mount a push for the red line. On August 12th, the Quakes were on a torrid pace, unbeaten in 5 games while taking 9 points. We sat behind San Jose’s 31 points with 27, but had had just started to turn our season around as well, with three straight results.

Of course you make your own luck and Seattle has been on a tear lately. Since August 12th, Seattle’s taken 14 points from 7 matches while San Jose has gotten merely 6 from 8. Now we’re firmly in control of our playoff destiny, while San Jose has to settle for morale victories like last night’s.

Cliché disclaimer: none of these results matter if Seattle doesn’t take care of business today at BC Place. Though Seattle is looking primed to pounce, we haven’t clinched anything yet. A big win today in our last Cascadia derby could all but punch our ticket to the postseason.

Bold Prediction: Wow. It feels good to be boldly proclaiming again. Frankly, today’s game won’t be pretty. Nico Lodeiro is suspended due to yellow card accumulation meaning Seattle will employ only a half a DP (sorry Valdez). So even with J-Mo smooth tearing up the league, our attack will be stifled. Thankfully Vancouver has been atrocious lately, with only 5 points in their last 9 games while being shut out 6 times. The ‘Caps did manage 3 goals in 3-3 draw with Colorado last week, but hopefully that is just a fluke.

I see Seattle, tired from fixture congestion and often stymied by our neighbors to the north, settling for a 1-1 draw. J-Mo strikes again and has his eyes firmly on Cyle Larin’s rookie record.

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