Seattle making final push for top spot in MLS
After raising their third straight U.S. Open Cup title this week, the Seattle Sounders FC were quick to note another result that fell in their favor that night.
It happened thousands of miles away when the New York Red Bulls beat Los Angeles 2-0. That result Wednesday night left open the slimmest possibility that the Sounders could catch Los Angeles in the race for Major League Soccer's best regular-season record.
It's unlikely the Sounders will catch the Galaxy, but if Seattle can make up seven points over the final three games it would cap an impressive late-season run in which the Sounders have been the hottest team in the league.
''What we want to do is put ourselves in a position where if they do slip we're there to take advantage of it,'' Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. ''If they don't slip, then we've maintained our rhythm of play and maintained a consistency of play.''
That challenge for Seattle begins on Saturday night when they host Philadelphia, currently one-point behind Sporting Kansas City for first place in the Eastern Conference. Then comes the emotional send-off for Kasey Keller at home against San Jose on Oct. 15, when the team will honor Keller's long career in the final regular-season home match of his career. Team officials said this week that more than 55,000 tickets already have been sold for the game.
Seattle then closes the regular season at Chivas USA. Even if the Sounders collect all nine points available in the three games, they'll still need help from Chivas and Houston if they're going to catch the Galaxy.
''I think the most important thing is that we're all in this together, regardless. At some point, everybody has played a part in this tournament or this season,'' Seattle midfielder Brad Evans said after winning the Open Cup. ''We've got a deep team, and like I said, everybody's played part. It's a testament to our team and these guys.''
The victory over Chicago in the U.S. Open Cup final capped a wild stretch during which Seattle competed in three different competitions and found success in all three. They clinched advancement through the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League with a game to spare after picking up a last-second draw in Guatemala. Before that, the Sounders had wrapped up the first MLS version of the Cascadia Cup - the regional rivalry between Vancouver, Portland and Seattle - with a victory over the Whitecaps.
The success in multiple competitions over such a short time has highlighted the cohesion the Sounders have developed in their three seasons.
''I think our depth and being able to balance so many competitions is a tribute to what the club has been able to build up over three years and the improvement of players in that three-year period of time,'' Schmid said.
Seattle has just one loss in its last eight MLS matches and going back further, is 12-2-4 since the end of May. The summer success made up for a slow start and left open the possibility of catching Los Angeles late, even if it remains a remote possibility, and making the road to the MLS Cup go through Seattle instead.
''The goal this year was different. We've been up there all year. We knew we were going to make the playoffs,'' Keller said. ''We're ready this year to go as far as we possibly can, and that's a cool mentality that we've had.''
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