After finding their form in the final two weeks of the regular season, the Seattle Sounders look to maintain their surge in the MLS Cup playoffs.
The second-seed Sounders eye a third straight victory in Saturday’s opening-round matchup against visiting and No. 7 seed FC Dallas.
Though it was a foregone conclusion for most of the season that Los Angeles FC would win the Western Conference and ultimately the Supporters’ Shield, the race for second was far from certain. Seattle, though, posted 1-0 victories at San Jose and over Minnesota United FC on the final two weekends, respectively, to finish second in the West on 56 points – three more than Real Salt Lake and MUFC.
That gives the Sounders home-field advantage at least through the West semifinals. Seattle, which went 11-2-4 at home during the regular season, won its only MLS Cup in 2016, then lost to Toronto FC in the final the next year.
“When it comes to the Cup, you never know what happens,” keeper Stefan Frei told the Sounders’ official website. “It’s a tournament. I’m happy with where we’re at, and I think we have enough veterans that have been there before. They realize what kind of opportunity this is for them as individuals, but us as a team as well.”
Raul Ruidiaz (11 goals) and Jordan Morris (10) have paced the Sounders this season from an offensive standpoint. Morris scored a late stoppage-time goal against San Jose on Oct. 6. Ruidiaz, who dealt with fitness issues this season, has gone five consecutive contests without a goal.
Ruidiaz did scored in a 2-1 loss at Dallas on June 1, in which the Sounders also suffered a pair of own goals. Seattle and FCD played to a scoreless draw at CenturyLink Field last month.
Dallas, which finished with 48 points to claim the West’s final playoff spot, snapped an 0-2-2 stretch – where it managed just one goal – by routing Sporting Kansas City 6-0 on Decision Day. Zdenek Ondrasek bagged a brace while Michael Barrios, Jesus Ferreira and Santiago Mosquera each added a goal with an assist versus SKC.
That effort certainly gives FCD, which reached their only MLS Cup final in 2010, a quality dose of momentum heading in the postseason.
“At this point it’s a whole new season, playoffs,” midfielder Jacori Hayes told FC Dallas’ official website. “For us to rattle off six (goals) like that, it’s massive for our confidence. We feel like we’re in a really good moment. We’re hitting our stride a little bit going into the playoffs.”
Ondrasek has been the hottest of the Dallas players, scoring all seven of his league goals this season over his last seven contests.
These teams last met in the 2016 playoffs, with Seattle winning 4-2 on the aggregate en route to the title.