Photo by ISIphotos.com
BY JOSE M. ROMERO
Seven MLS games remain on the Seattle Sounders' schedule, three at home and four on the road. Seven games to earn 13 more points, at least, and get to coach Sigi Schmid's magic number of points, 45, that he believes will get the club into the postseason.
Magic number? Six Western Conference teams currently holding down playoff spots with only two in the East? Seems more like the NBA (where West teams win more in the regular season than those in the East) or major-league baseball playoff race than soccer.
Gone is the Sounders' seven-match unbeaten streak after their loss at New England last Saturday, an historic run for the young franchise but one that was bound to end sooner than later. The Revs are no powerhouse; nevertheless they scored three unanswered goals for a convincing come-from-behind win over Seattle.
It stands to reason that perhaps fatigue from a more trying schedule than last season finally set in on the players in Foxborough. Seattle had a U.S. Open Cup match last week and has had a mid-week match to play every week since July 25. The Sounders have given up goals in bunches before for one reason or another, but it seems like so many games — Open Cup, CONCACAF Champions League and MLS — finally caught up to them.
Right about now, the Sounders could use a pick-me-up from Blaise N'kufo, who is practicing this week but has been hampered by a deep knee bruise. Seattle has a big Thursday game against Real Salt Lake on ESPN2. Three points aren't a must against the defending MLS Cup winners, but with a schedule that includes flights to Costa Rica, Columbus, Mexico and Chicago over the next 18 days, it would really make a difference.
Fatigue, jetlag, tired legs, injuries – the excuses are there and have been for most of the season. By the end of the regular season, no other MLS club will have played more games than Seattle, 42, not including international friendlies. Next season could be the same if the Sounders win the U.S. Open Cup next month.
The Sounders should learn from the experience of playing so often and get accustomed to it, as more seasoned MLS teams like the Crew and Houston Dynamo and L.A. Galaxy had to. Success equals more games to play.
After Thursday night, the Sounders won't return to Qwest Field for a game until Sept. 29, when they host CD Marathon in a CCL group match.
By that time, CCL play might be just a required game on the schedule that the Sounders have to play and get through, as Seattle might be well out of contention for advancement from their group.