After a flying start to the season, a middle portion rummaged with injuries and misfortunes, and an end that turned out to be just good enough, the Seattle Sounders are back in the MLS Playoffs. Last years’ Supporters‘ Shield winners clinched the fourth seed in the Western Conference courtesy of a 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake on Sunday night. This means that next up for the Sounders is a home match against the LA Galaxy, the reigning MLS champs. The Galaxy hold the edge for the regular season matchups, posting 1-0 and 3-1 wins. The sides last met on Oct. 4, when the Galaxy held out for a 1-1 draw against a well-versed Seattle side.
The Sounders went into Sunday night’s match having drawn their last three games, but two early goals from Clint Dempsey and a curled effort from Marco Pappa sealed the 3 points against RSL. Having drawn their previous three matches, all 1-1, it was a boost for the Rave Green to see their main attacking threats capitalize on their chances. Osvaldo Alonso continued to boss the midfield, and Obafemi Martins always carried a threat in behind.
Odds could shift in Seattle’s favor as LA will head to Seattle having lost their final match of the season 2-1 to Sporting Kansas City (SKC), and memories not quite yet faded from a 5-2 thrashing at the hands of Portland a week before. The MLS cup holders do still carry the threats of last year’s MVP Robbie Keane, Gyasi Zardes and Giovanni Dos Santos. If the Sounders backline can cope with LA’s forwards, they can feel confident that Martins and Dempsey can have freedom to run at home.
Joining the MLS playoffs from the west are Sporting Kansas City (SKC), the Portland Timbers, the Vancouver Whitecaps and FC Dallas.
Dallas finished the regular season with a joint top points tally of 60. The duo of Fabian Castillo and Mauro Diaz have been a nightmare for opposing defenses, with Castillo ending the regular season with nine goals and nine assists, while Diaz picked up eight goals and 10 assists. They will start their playoff campaign on Nov. 1 against the winner of Los Angeles and Seattle.
Vancouver is another team that experienced real ups and downs this season. They still head into the postseason with the West’s number two seed and also enjoy a bye past the first round of games. Look for Octavio Rivero to cause problems and to add to his goal scoring record.
Both Portland and SKC benefited from good late season form and will face off for the other first round game in the West on Thursday night.
In the East it’s the New York Red Bulls who head into the playoffs with growing confidence. The Red Bulls edged out FC Dallas on goal difference to earn their second Supporters’ Shield in three years, given to the team finishing with the best record in the league. Sasha Kljestan’s drive in the center of the park has seen him earn 13 assists and give New York the base to make a deep run at the MLS cup. Paired with Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright Philips’ eye for goal, the latter racking up 16 goals this season, and the Red Bulls will surely feel like they can win their first championship.
The East also boasts two rising Canadian sides, with Didier Drogba thrusting the Montreal Impact to a third place finish and Sebastian Giovinco leading Toronto FC to its first ever playoff appearance. Both new to the league this season, Drogba finished with a remarkable 11 goals in 11 games and Giovinco made his case to be named this year’s MVP scoring 22. The two stars will certainly want to prove their worth in what is truly the important stretch in the MLS season.
Chaucer may be reached at email@example.com
Chaucer Larson is a sophomore Journalism and Spanish double major. Originally from Missoula, Montana, Chaucer enjoys covering sports for the Spectator, especially soccer, and has recently begun commentating matches for the school radio, KXSU. Catch Chaucer and say hello on campus before he heads out to Puebla, Mexico to study abroad Winter and Spring quarter.