The MLS playoffs are set to begin, and Seattle Sounders FC once again finds itself one of the favorites to claim the MLS Cup.
The MLS regular season concluded Sunday, and the Sounders are headed to the postseason for the 12th time in the franchise’s 12 seasons in MLS. Seattle, thanks to Sunday’s emphatic 4-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes, finished its COVID-navigated season 11-5-6 for 1.77 points per game, which earned the Sounders the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
All the signs point toward Seattle being one of the teams to beat. Not only do the Sounders have a high seed, they finished second in the league in goal difference at plus-21. Add in that Seattle is the reigning MLS champion and the Sounders will be at the top of everyone’s list of contenders.
Seattle is spearheaded by its three-pronged attack of Raul Ruidiaz (12 goals, four assists), Jordan Morris (10 goals, eight assists ) and Nicolas Lodeiro (seven goals, 10 assists). Those three give the Sounders as dangerous a front group as any in the league. Meanwhile, Seattle’s rebuilt central defensive pairing of Xavier Arreaga and Yeimar Gomez Andrade helped the Sounders limit opponents to 23 goals, the fewest in the Western Conference and fourth-fewest in all of MLS.
The Sounders, however, do not head into the postseason red hot. Though Seattle finished on a high note Sunday, the Sounders won just two of their final seven games, going 2-2-3 over the past month.
And Seattle received about as tricky a draw possible, as waiting in the first round is LAFC. LAFC underwent a turbulent 2020 following a 2019 in which it set a record for best regular season in MLS history, finishing 9-8-5 to drop to the conference’s No. 7 seed. But LAFC is still as talented as any team in the league, including 2020 Golden Boot winner Diego Rossi and reigning league MVP Carlos Vela. There’s also the revenge factor at play, as it was Seattle that upset LAFC in last year’s conference finals to ruin a historic campaign.
Unfortunately, we won’t be seeing the teams at full strength in their opening-round match. The first round happens to coincide with an international window, meaning players called up to their national teams will likely be unavailable. LAFC will be hit particularly hard as four players — Rossi (Uruguay), forward Brian Rodriguez (Uruguay), midfielder Jose Cifuentes (Ecuador) and defender Diego Palacios (Ecuador) — were called up to their national teams. Seattle will probably be without Arreaga (Ecuador) and midfielder Gustav Svensson (Sweden).
The date and time of the first-round game is yet to be determined, but it will take place Nov. 21, 22 or 24 at CenturyLink Field.
Should Seattle advance, it would face the winner of No. 3 Portland and No. 6 Dallas in the conference semifinals. And looming down the path are a potential matchup with Western Conference top seed Kansas City in the conference finals, then possibly Eastern Conference heavyweights Philadelphia and Toronto in the MLS Cup final — it would be something if Seattle and Toronto met in the finals for the fourth time in five years.
So what do you think? How far do the Sounders go in the playoffs this year? Will it be another title, or will it be an early-round upset? Make your prediction here:
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