Real Salt Lake is on their way to face Seattle Sounders in a match that's certainly bigger for the home side than the visitors. As a result, there's a lot of pressure around the match.
We talked to Sounder at Heart's Dave Clark about the state of things in Seattle, trying to get a general sense of how Sounders supporters are feeling ahead of this big game.
1. The stakes are huge for this match. Are you worried that Seattle will fail at the last moment?
I should include more words, but sometimes yes is enough. Why?
Because this team has wasted so many chances to lock in seeding, or even make a late run for the Supporters' Shield. When healthy they can be extraordinary. Two-thirds of this season have been awful and merely good.
Sunday's game offers the opportunity to bathe in greatness and wash away the nasty dirt of disappointment, but we're still covered in that disappointment and so while "there is hope" is our calling card this season, I may not believe it.
2. If you don't make playoffs, what's next for Seattle? If you do, is there any sense that you have the right pieces to succeed?
Missing the MLS Cup Playoffs is a failure. In middle of the injury crisis the calling for Sigi's head was premature, but in the late season he had the talent and dropped points against KC's B team, Houston and RSL would be a signal of something very wrong. Seattle was/will be mostly healthy in those games. Missing the playoffs because they only pull in two or three points would be on Sigi, and the players. A very simple case could be made to tear the roster and staff to shreds and start over. At most the window for this core ends in 2016. There's a lot of age in key roles - Dempsey, Martins, Alonso, Pineda, Valdez, Marshall, Evans.
But those same key personnel do have another year in them, and if they enter the MLS Cup Playoffs with an 8-game unbeaten streak and a strong performance they can ride the best defense in the league and the Clinfemi duo up top to the Final. Because when Clint and Oba play the offense is at worst average in MLS and at best is an unstoppable force raining fire and brimstone down on the opposing keeper. This is a team that when clicking is good enough for a deep CCL run even.
Those are two wild swings in confidence, but are a representation of how fine the line of greatness in MLS can be.
3. Has Garth Lagerwey actually been a big impact for Seattle Sounders, or have his changes not really shook out yet?
Most of the scouting of the four Summer signings was done before he joined the team. What he did was add polish and the final diacritical marks. This will be his first full offseason and third transfer window. If Garth has magic this is when we will see it.
Frei; Fisher, Marshall, Evans, Mears; Ivanschitz, Pineda, Alonso, Pappa; Dempsey, Martins