The Seattle Sounders have had quite a week, first beating Columbus Crew to raise the Open Cup for the second year running, then clinching an MLS playoff slot with a win over Kansas City Wizards. So what now, Sounders fans?
Th first step is to sit tight. Seattle has four matches left before the playoffs, and none of them carry any weight. Tonight is a friendly against Chivas de Guadalajara, there are MLS matches left to play home against Chivas USA, away against Houston Dynamo, and the final match in the group stages of CONCACAF Champions League is next Tuesday against Saprissa.
While the friendly against Chivas is now happening after the madness of truly competitive play, the fact that it was ever scheduled in October, when Seattle could have theoretically been still chasing both a playoff spot and trying to progress in the CCL, is utter madness. Many Sounders supporters believe that the club should pursue trophies, not friendlies, and should not schedule exhibition matches in the midst of such fixture congestion. If you're one of these supporters, who holds a "Friendly C" ticket to tonight's match, Emerald City Supporters has your solution. The ECS is encouraging those who want to send a "Trophies Not Friendlies" message to the Seattle Sounders to donate their tickets to the Boys and Girls club. While it might be too-late on the day of the match, you should still take a look at the reasons behind this campaign.
The final match in the group stages of the CCL seems equally pointless. After all, the Sounders have no chance of advancing. Yet with the Open Cup victory, the team secured their spot in next year's Championship play. While it may seem silly to play a meaningless match, this sort of competition is just the type the Sounders should be exposed to. With Saprissa trying to clinch second place in the group, they'll be playing their best, and their style, tactics and approach to their game is something that the Sounders need to note should they wish to advance in next year's tournament.
And so we have the last two league games. What do we play for? Pride. The chance to use the youngsters. The opportunity to experiment with different formations (for goodness sake, Sigi, try something, anything, different). With a win over Chivas, the Sounders will break records by winning five straight. Records aside, though, the most important part of these final two matches will be keeping an eye on players like Mike Fucito, David Estrada, Miguel Montaño and Mike Seamon. These are the ones that will be competing for a starting spot in next year's squad--or even for minutes in the playoffs. Where will they fit? Are they ready to be starters on a team that will compete for the playoffs, to retain the Open Cup, to advance in the CCL? These matches should give us a glimpse of the Seattle Sounders' future.