The Seattle Sounders are the lone Western Conference team to have already clinched a berth in the Major Soccer League playoffs, but that doesn't mean the road to MLS Cup is guaranteed to go through the Emerald City.
The Sounders (17-6-6, 57 points) could go a long way toward assuring the top seed in the conference this week when they travel to third-place Colorado (14-6-9, 51 points) on Wednesday and play host to second-place Sporting Kansas City (15-7-7, 52 points) this weekend.
"I hope everybody is not thinking about we're already in the top of the West and that it's going to be like this until the rest of the season, because it's not. It doesn't work like this," said Sounders midfielder Nicolas Benezet, acquired on deadline day from the Rapids in exchange for allocation money. "It's football -- anything can happen. I hope everybody thinks it's not done and we're going to work to stay on the top of the West until the rest of the season."
The Sounders missed a chance to extend their lead with a 2-1 loss Saturday at Houston that snapped their four match-winning streak.
"I don't think that group of players took Houston lightly," Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. "We understand that every point is vital for us to stay ahead of Colorado and Sporting K.C. So, I don't think that was the issue.
Both Sporting K.C. and Colorado also lost last weekend, the latter dropping a 3-1 decision at Real Salt Lake.
"Seattle coming up, I think this is a season-defining game for us," Rapids midfielder Jonathan Lewis said. "We've got to go out there and win our individual battles and show them we're not a little team anymore. People have to start taking notice of us."
The teams have met twice previously this season, a 1-1 draw July 4 in Commerce City, Colo., and a 3-0 Sounders' victory Oct. 3 in Seattle. In the latter match, the Sounders scored three first-half goals and coasted after the Rapids' Lucas Esteves was issued a red card in the 61st minute.
The Sounders hold a 22-7-3 record in the all-time series.
--Field Level Media