Listen before you jump all over my case, hear (or read) me out. Seattle in my opinion is the second best team in MLS right now, but because of a slump early on they could finish anywhere from 3rd to 8th in the Western Conference and I believe it would be in their best interest to simply "dial it in" against Houston. They are good and they know they can win, you only need look at their performance over the last month to know this. A loss against Houston would leave them with 48 points which would ensure they would finish no higher than 4th in the West, but depending on the results of other teams could drop them lower and I believe that is a good thing.
and after the jump I will tell you why:
The MLS playoffs are nuts, or at least with the way this season has played out, with 6 teams from the Western Conference in the field of 8 teams. Seattle overall is currently the 4th best team in MLS (OK, fine they would lose the tiebreaker with New York for 4th) by record, and you would think in a fair system that they would be facing off against the 5th best team or at worst the 3rd best team. Oh if it were that simple. Should the playoffs begin today, they would face the number one team, the Los Angeles Galaxy (who beat Seattle in both matches this year 7-1 cumulative).
Should Seattle lose at Houston, and by some freak of nature Colorado beat RSL, then Colorado would have 48 points and drop Seattle to 5th in the West on the basis of the tiebreakers. That would mean they would go to the Eastern Conference and face off against the Columbus Crew (as of right now), a team they dominated in September and beat earlier this month for the US Open Cup title. You have to believe that the path to MLS Cup would be easier going through Columbus and New York and one other Western Conference team, than going through LA, RSL, and FC Dallas the teams that are locks on the Western Conference playoff bracket. Heck even San Jose could help out Seattle (if they take my advice) by winning out their two matches (Tonight against Chivas, and Saturday at Kansas City) which would move them to 49 points.
Oh there are simply so many scenarios on what could happen, but the key to my dream matchup for MLS Cup (Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders) is the Sounders losing on Saturday at Houston. Am I nuts, well it depends on who you ask, but I think in this case I am crazy like a fox.
All of this is of course necessary because the MLS Cup playoff format is a bit odd, and of course this lead to those "purists and eurosnobs" saying that the playoffs are stupid and we should move to a single table and relegation, blah, blah, blah. Playoff are wonderful and provide the best teams from the regular season a chance to play a few more matches as a reward for their performance, which means their fans get to watch a few more matches and teams make a bit more money from the additional matches. I love the playoffs.
Anyhow, I just thought I would toss that one out there and see if any part of it sticks. I would love on Sunday evening to see the Western Conference standings look like this:
Real Salt Lake - 58 points
Los Angeles Galaxy - 56 points
FC Dallas - 51 points
San Jose - 49 points
Seattle Sounders - 48 points
Colorado Rapids - 45 points
That is my vision of the perfect end of the season and my path to the two best team (RSL and Seattle) meeting at BMO field for the MLS Cup.
OFF MY SOAPBOX