With Playoff Berth Assured, Seattle Sounders Focus On Tasks at Hand

Bill HareCorrespondent IOctober 12, 2010

Alvaro Fernandez has helped the Sounders' second half seasonal surge since reporting for duty following World Cup action with Uruguay.
Alvaro Fernandez has helped the Sounders' second half seasonal surge since reporting for duty following World Cup action with Uruguay.Gail Oskin/Getty Images

There was a celebration in Kansas City Saturday night as the Seattle Sounders secured a berth in the postseason MLS playoffs with a 2-1 win over the host Wizards. 

Tuesday night champagne was uncorked and splashed in earlier celebration as the Sounders achieved their second Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup triumph in a row with a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Crew.

While delighted with both achievements, Coach Sigi Schmid said after the Kansas City victory that, while happy about gaining a playoff spot in the franchise’s second season in existence, the focus had to be on performing well in the playoffs.  General Manager Adrian Hanauer echoed Schmidt’s sentiments in saying that he hoped that this year the team would fare better in playoff competition than it had one year earlier.

Now Seattle Sounders FC moves into an important three game home stretch that will reveal if it will be going into playoff competition with the kind of momentum it has been establishing in the second half of the season.  An important test looms Tuesday at 7 p.m. PT with the opposition CD Chivas de Guadalajara, Mexico’s most popular team, at the Xbox Pitch of Qwest Field.

After Monday’s workout in the Sounders’ training facility in Tukwila Schmid had high praise for Guadalajara.

“They are a good team and they are well-organized,” Schmid said.  “They are a team that is going to keep possession of the ball. They have got some pretty experienced players with Bofo [Adolfo Bautista].  Omar Bravo is another (good) player, while Omar Arellano is another (good) player."

“All of those guys have played for the national team off and on and they are very experienced players. They have an American kid as well, [Miguel] Ponce, who plays for them some at left back and some at left midfield. So they are a good team."

“They will keep possession of the ball. They will knock the ball around. They will play some of the guys who haven’t had as many games. But I think it’s going to be a good soccer game and I think the last games we have played at Qwest have been good games, have been entertaining games for the fans and have been good soccer games.”

Friday evening the Sounders return to Qwest Field for the second of three home tests that will enable them to maintain focus and work toward a solid and cohesive effort in the upcoming playoffs.  Friday’s contest will be Fan Appreciation Night with the MLS opponent Chivas USA in an 8 p.m. clash.

Seattle defeated Chivas 3-1 in Tukwila in the Open Cup semifinal, but has had difficulty with the Los Angeles based team in MLS competition.  Chivas leads the regular series with a 2-0-2 mark.

Finally the group stage of CONCACAF ends Tuesday, October 19th as the Sounders host CD Saprissa at 7 p.m. in a match that will be telecast on the Fox Soccer Channel.  A Saprissa win would move it into the quarterfinals.  While the Sounders were earlier eliminated from advancing, a triumph could conceivably enable them to finish third in Group C competition.

Regular season MLS activity will then end October 23rd on the road against the Houston Dynamo.

It will be interesting to see the lineups Schmid uses in remaining matches with a team that has depth denied to him earlier in the season when injuries were more of a factor than is currently the case.  

Team strength was also enhanced from the international front following the World Cup when Blaise Nkufo of Switzerland and Alvaro Fernandez of Uruguay reported for action.  Each has sturdily assisted a Sounders forward push that finds the team at 13-9-6 in league play with 45 points.