This is a pretty big week for Seattle Sounders FC.
MLS resumes play this week following a two-week international break. Prior to the break the Sounders were working themselves back into playoff contention, going 4-2-2 in their previous eight MLS games. That pulled Seattle into a tie for the sixth-and-final playoff position in the Western Conference, following a sluggish 2-5-4 start that had the Sounders languishing toward the bottom of the standings.
Play restarts in quick fashion with the Sounders having two games this week: Wednesday against D.C. United and Sunday against the San Jose Earthquakes. Both games are very winnable for Seattle, as D.C. is dead last in the Eastern Conference while San Jose is just two points ahead of the Sounders in the west. More importantly both games are at home, and Seattle is 4-1-3 at CenturyLink Field as opposed to 2-6-3 on the road.
However, there are complications. The U.S. men’s national team qualified for the knockout stage of the Gold Cup, meaning the Sounders will still be missing key players to international duty this week. Leading scorer Clint Dempsey, who wasn’t a part of the U.S. team during the group stage, has been called up for the knockout stages. With fellow forward Jordan Morris also a part of the team, that means Seattle will be without two key attacking players this week.
Seattle does get midfielder Cristian Roldan back, as he was released by the U.S. following round-robin play. But with Seattle also likely to be without midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (knee) and defender Chad Marshall (foot) because of injuries, the Sounders will be at far less than full strength come Wednesday.
The Sounders will have just 13 games remaining in the regular season following this week. Therefore, how Seattle performs this week could determine whether the Sounders vault themselves into the mix toward the top of the conference, or whether they once again find themselves battling down the stretch just to make the playoffs.
So how do you think the Sounders will fare in this critical week?