MLS Cup Playoffs

Leg 2: Seattle Sounders at Colorado Rapids

The Seattle Sounders lead going into the second leg of the MLS Western Conference Finals against the Colorado Rapids.

Though we have the lead, last Sunday was a little bit of a let down for the Sounders. I certainly didn’t predict that we’d allow a road goal to an impotent attacking team:

Now the boys in Rave Green have to score on the road against the kings of the 1-nil result. BOLD PREDICTION: I’ll admit, I’m nervous. A road goal has made a difference in every Sounders playoff series the last 3 years, and now Colorado has that edge. Plus we’re at altitude and B-Rad and Friberg are late scratches, so.. yeah. Out depth is paper thin, with only Flacco capable of making a difference off the bench against a Rapids 18 with Pappa, Hairston and Badji. That said, the Sounders are nothing if not resilient. Forgot Zlatan, it is Nico Lodeiro who has conquered America. The Sounders have been exceeding expectations for months now, and they won’t stop now.

Seattle Sounders Looking To Make History

The Seattle Sounders are in the Western Conference Finals for the 3rd time in 5 years. We seem to enjoy some Rave Green magic in the even years, as 2012 and 2014 join 2016. Even 2010 saw some hoodoo as we fought back from an atrocious start (4-8-3, 15 pts in 15 games) to make the playoffs. If the Sounders are plotted on an upward curve, this is the year we make MLS Cup.

Honestly? First I was just stoked we made the playoffs. With 8th straight playoff appearances, the Sounders are something special. In North American professional sports, where parity always wins, establishing a streak like the Sounders have is terribly, terribly difficult.

The longest active playoffs streak in professional sports is held by the Detroit Red Wings at an insane 25 seasons. Insane. Next is the San Antonito Spurs at 19, the Pittsburgh Penguins at 10, the Atlanta Hawks at 9 (really?!), and the Chicago Blackhawks, L.A. Galaxy and Seattle Sounders at 8. Those 7 teams have 17 championships, combined, during these streaks.

The major takeaways from that list are A) the NHL seems to be less competitive than the other major leagues, B) the Spurs are incredible, C) MLB and the NFL are really parity riddled (the New England Patriots seem to be the most dominant franchise in all of sports, but their current streak is only at 7 years) and D) streaks don’t mean squat if you don’t win. Who would’ve ever guessed the Atlanta Hawks were on that list? Just showing up to the dance doesn’t carve your name in history. You gotta win.

So we’re #hellagreedy. I thought I’d be happy with an early exit as long as we kept our streak going. But then we clinch (on the last day of the season), and I think, “we’ve never not played in the semis, so we’d best beat SKC (thank you Nelson Valdez and the lazy flag of the AR).” Then you want revenge on a vulnerable FC Dallas side that sent us packing last season.

And now, this. We’re playing an underwhelming Colorado side and we are THISCLOSE to our first MLS Cup. Now here’s where the #hellagreedy becomes #hellagrateful. I would be stoked with a mere MLS Cup appearance.

2016 has been a wild and wacky season with another magical turnaround and the unprecedented firing of Sigi. But the postseason has, so far, been pretty par. Everything we’ve done in the playoffs, we’ve done before. Making the Western Conference Finals isn’t new to this club, though facing a team that isn’t the Gals is.

Up until now, 2014 was the best Sounders season ever. We won an Open Cup-Supporters’ Shield Double and still only got as far as we are right now. In fact, the acme of that year was the 32nd to 53rd minute of the second leg of the Conference Finals. With goals by Brad Evans and Dempsey, we’d taken the aggregate lead on the Galaxy 2-1, and we’re less than 40 minutes from MLS Cup. Of course Juninho scores the away goal and we floundered in the twilight of the match.

Now a new hope has been ignited. We are 180 minutes away from making this year the best Sounders year ever. All we have to do is keep playing the brand of soccer coach Schmetzer has established: possess and attack. We do that, we make history.

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.

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