After stumbling to the worst start to a season in team history, the 2016 Seattle Sounders battled their way into the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season. If you were one of the many doubters who gave up on the team early, that’s alright. They’ll forgive you if you’re rooting loud in CenturyLink Field's stands during their playoff game against Sporting Kansas City this Thursday at 7.
Whether you actually make it to the game or end up watching it on FS1, here are five things you should know before the match kicks off.
Again, They Recovered from the Worst Start in Team History
After losing the first three games of the season (for the first time ever), the Sounders continued their swoon through the end of July, when they had a 6-12-2 record and were last place in the MLS. Seeking a spark, the team elected to fire head coach Sigi Schmid, the squad’s only coach since it joined the league in 2009. The Sounders responded by winning eight of their final 13 games, and clinched a spot in the playoffs after beating Real Salt Lake 2-1 on Sunday.
The New Coach Isn’t So New
Interim head coach Brian Schmetzer has been involved in Seattle soccer for longer than Germany has been a unified country. In 1980, as a 17-year-old student at Nathan Hale High School, he signed to the Sounders (then in the North American Soccer League) as a player. After his playing days, he joined the coaching staff in 2001. Prior to the team’s jump to MLS, Schmetzer was the head coach that led the Sounders to multiple USL championships, but lost the job to Schmid when the team jumped to MLS. He then slid into an assistant role before taking the lead job in July.
The Rookie Forward Has Lived Up to the Hype
Jordan Morris entered the season with a huge pile of expectations surrounding him. During his time as a Hermann Trophy-winner at Stanford, he became the first college player to play for the US national team since 1995. While he had offers to play in top European leagues, the Seattle native opted to play for his hometown club, where his dad is a medical physician. And he hasn’t disappointed. Morris leads the Sounders with 12 goals, with four assists for good measure. He’s also proved himself to be a clutch player when the game is on the line, notching five game-winning goals, a new MLS rookie record.
They Added Some Uruguayan Flavor
Nicolas Lodeiro is a chef. And by that, I mean he’s been serving up goals on a silver platter. A midsummer acquisition from Uruguay, the midfielder has already recorded four goals and eight assists since his first game on July 31. He won the Etihad Player of the Month in August in his first month on the team, and has been the catalyst for the revitalized Sounders offense.
They’re Doing All This Without Their Superstar
If you only know one Sounders player, odds are it’s Clint Dempsey. But the U.S. national team captain is out for the rest of the season due to an irregular heartbeat. The fact the the Sounders have reversed their fortune without their highest paid player (his $4.6 million salary is nearly as much as every other Sounder combined), makes this playoff run even more impressive.
MLS Playoffs: Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City
Oct 17 at 7, CenturyLink Field, $30–$107 (Televised on FS1)