When Brian Schmetzer took over the Seattle Sounders from Sigi Schmid during the 2016 season, the new coach predicted his team would have to go 8-2-4 the rest of the way to reach the playoffs.
The Sounders did exactly that and went on to win their first MLS Cup title.
Last season, Seattle overcame a 5-7-4 start by going on a 13-match unbeaten streak to reach the championship game.
This year the Sounders started 3-9-3 before their current eight-match unbeaten streak, including a franchise record-tying five straight wins, to jump back into the Western Conference playoff chase.
Saturday afternoon, the Sounders (9-9-5, 32 points) host Schmid and the Los Angeles Galaxy (10-8-7, 37 points) at CenturyLink Field.
“To see it come together, it’s very nice obviously, but we don’t want to put ourselves in this position every year,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said of the team’s annual slow starts. “And unfortunately we have in the last three years. But next season, we need to ramp it up from the get-go. You want to be a title-contending team, put yourself in the best position possible to make a run and, at the end of the day, strive for the Supporters’ Shield because you not only put yourself in a better position (for the playoffs), but you win another trophy.”
With the addition of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a nine-game unbeaten run, the Galaxy seemed poised for a long playoff run.
Three matches later, they’re worried about just making the postseason.
The Galaxy are winless in their past three heading into Saturday’s showdown and are coming off a pair of 2-2 draws at home to Colorado and Minnesota United FC, clubs that are currently out of the playoff picture.
Making matters worse, the Galaxy twice blew one-goal leads in each of those draws and also had the lead in a 2-1 loss in Colorado two weeks ago.
Had the Galaxy held onto each of those advantages, they’d be in first place in the Western Conference. Instead, they’re fourth.
“Everybody talk about the playoffs. The way we play now, we don’t even deserve playoffs,” said Ibrahimovic, the international star who has 15 goals since joining the Galaxy. “This is the moment you show everyone you want to be in the playoffs. This is the game you kill. The opponent is not better than us, but they are better organized, they play better than us, and they want to play. They’re on their toes and they are in the field and playing. We’re doing everything opposite.”
The Galaxy are 9-6-9 all-time against the Sounders, including 4-3-5 at CenturyLink Field.
—Field Level Media