The “Decision Day” game with arguably the most at stake in the Western Conference on Sunday will take place in Seattle, where a victory by either the Sounders or Minnesota United would give them the No. 2 seed for the playoffs.
Both teams are level on 53 points with identical 15-10-8 records and two points ahead of the Los Angeles Galaxy. But since the Galaxy have 16 wins, they own the primary tiebreaker and would pip both teams for the No. 2 spot with a victory at Houston coupled with a draw between the Sounders and Loons.
An intriguing subplot to the game sees United midfielder Osvaldo Alonso make his first return to Seattle after 10 seasons with the Sounders. Alonso was part of the 2016 MLS Cup-winning team and also captained the side to four U.S. Open Cup titles in a six-season span from 2009-14.
Alonso scored the tying goal last week versus Sporting Kansas City that clinched the Loons’ first playoff berth in franchise history and is ready for what should be an emotional return to the Pacific Northwest.
“It’s going to be special because of 10 years playing there, coming back for]my first time and playing against my former team but I have to do my job here with the team,” Alonso told Minnesota United’s official website. “I have to focus because we have to go there [and] find a way to get three points because three points means second place. Second place means we host the first game here in the playoffs.”
The Loons moved to 2-0-2 in their last four matches following a 1-1 draw versus Supporters’ Shield winner Los Angeles FC last Sunday. Michael Boxall’s goal in the 75th minute canceled out Carlos Vela’s goal for LAFC five minutes earlier, leaving Minnesota United boss Adrian Heath in a good frame of mind ahead of the season finale.
“I think it was the proverbial game of two halves,” Heath said. “I thought they were the dominant team in the first half. I thought they moved the ball really well. I thought their movement off the ball and their ball circulation was as good as you’ll see and we hung in there with a really good defensive shape and a lot of discipline. But the second half I thought we were the more aggressive team.”
Seattle is unbeaten in its last four home matches (2-0-2) and looking for an offensive spark with just one goal in its last three contests. Jordan Morris’ 94th-minute goal, though, was enough for the Sounders to escape San Jose with a 1-0 victory last Sunday as they – like the Loons – can finish anywhere from second to fifth in the West depending on “Decision Day” outcomes across the 12 matches.
“They’re a team that’s fighting for the same thing,” Morris told the club’s official website. “They’re trying to get second. For us, we know that, so we have to come in and match their energy.”
Morris, who was called up to the U.S. national team for next week’s CONCACAF Nations League matches, has three goals and three assists in his last six matches. His 10 goals are second behind Raul Ruidiaz (11), though the Peru international has hit a dry spell and failed to score in his previous four contests.
The teams played to a 1-1 draw at Allianz Field in May as Minnesota’s Ike Opara and Seattle’s Cristian Roldan traded first-half goals. The Sounders are 4-0-1 all-time versus the Loons and one of three teams Minnesota has yet to beat along with the Galaxy and Philadelphia Union.