The Seattle Sounders host the San Jose Earthquakes Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at CenturyLink Field. It's the final game of the regular season.
The Sounders are playoff-bound for the 10th year in a row. But it certainly didn't look that way at the start of the season. Here's this week's chat between KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel and Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick.
"I would've never imagined the Sounders getting to a 10th consecutive year of the playoffs based on the start of the season," Thiel said.
"When they lost to Portland on June 30th, their record was three wins, nine losses and three draws. They were at the bottom of the Western Conference and it looked wretched. There didn't seem to be any hope for a playoff out of this."
"Since then, going into the final regular season weekend, they go into that having won 12 games, two losses and two draws since that June 30th loss to the Timbers."
"That is an amazing turnaround. Of course, the Sounders were in the last two MLS Cups and they really do have a solid shot to be three in a row."
How Did They Get Here?
"There have been a number of people who have really performed well in the second half of the season," Thiel said.
"I think chief among them is Nicolás Lodeiro, who is a magician in the midfield. He's led them in scoring with 10 goals, 17 assists."
"They also added, on June 29th, Raúl Ruidíaz and he has been great. He's from Panama and he's combined with Lodeiro to do great things."
"Another guy, Will Bruin, with eight goals, has been a real asset. Especially in the absence of Clint Dempsey, who retired on Aug. 29, and the injury to Jordan Morris, the young phenom from Mercer Island and Stanford who hurt a knee early in the season and has been unavailable all year."
"A couple of other guys (have) really come to the fore on defense. The Sounders' defense has given up the second fewest goals in the league, only 36, and much credit goes to Chad Marshall and Stefan Frei in goal."
"And one of the young cornerstones emerged this year for the Sounders - Cristian Roldan, a former University of Washington star. He's got a big future alongside Jordan Morris."
What's The Playoff Scenario?
The Sounders are currently ranked fourth in the Major League Soccer Western Conference standings. Thiel said if they win this weekend and higher-ranked teams lose, the Sounders could end up in second place and get a bye for the knockout playoff round.
"But if things stay the way they are going into the weekend and the Sounders are fourth, the fifth-place team that they would host in the playoffs would be the Portland Timbers," he said.
"This would be so much fun to have a knockout-round game between the Sounders and the Timbers. You might just want to buckle up because that (would) be one fun game for all soccer fans in the Northwest."