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Sounders On Track To Win It All, Make MLS History

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Ted S. Warren
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AP Photo
Seattle Sounders players celebrate with the Supporters' Shield trophy after they defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-0 Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014, in Seattle. The Supporters' Shield is awarded to the MLS team with the best regular-season record.

The No. 1 Seattle Sounders start their playoff run this weekend. KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says this could be the year the Sounders win it all and make history in the process.All Signs Point To Yes

The Sounders start their playoff run Sunday against FC Dallas. Game 1 of the two-game Western Conference semifinals is in Texas. Game 2 will be in Seattle on Monday, Nov. 10. The team with the most goals at the end of the two games moves on to the next round.

If the Sounders make it to the MLS championship, the game will be played in Seattle. Art is confident this will happen.

“The Sounders have put together their best team," he said. "They’ve won 20 games, which is the most in MLS history for a single season. And they’ve put together a roster that’s very solid.”

History In The Making?

The Sounders are attempting something this season that’s never been done in Major League Soccer — winning the league's three trophies in the same season. The Sounders have already won the U.S. Open Cup tournament trophy and the Supporters Shield for the best record in the regular season. Now they're after the MLS Cup.

Superstars & A Deep Bench

Art says the reason the Sounders have come so far this year is because of a perfect combination of players.

“Not only do they have two superstars in Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, they have a very solid bench that has gotten them where they are,"  he said. "Those reserves were able to step up in the international vacancies that occurred during the regular season.

"This was a World Cup year, and that took away Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin. The bench came through and was able to sustain the excellence the Sounders have had this year," he said.

Far Cry From Last Year

The Sounders made some changes after the disappointing end to their season last year when they only had one win in their final 10 games,and were quickly ousted from the playoffs. Clint Dempsey had just joined the team and they hadn't had a chance to "gel" yet.

"The Sounders were a mess at the end of last season," Art said. "These guys were put together mid-season. Soccer, like basketball, like football, needs training camp to bring out the best in a sport that emphasizes teamwork. They didn’t have that last year. This year, they did.”

'Best Talent They've Ever Had'

Art says the Sounders have been able to fill expectations so far this year. And it could bring Seattle its second professional sports championship this year, after the Seahawks won the Super Bowl.

“The same thing that happened with the Seahawks is happening with the Sounders," Art said. "Where a team was expected to be a champion, and last year the Seahawks delivered. The Sounders are on that same track to deliver on the high expectations. That’s a very difficult thing to do in pro team sports.”

Sounders Get A 'Break' With FC Dallas Matchup

Art says the Sounders got a break this week. Dallas beat their nemesis: the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Sounders lost to Vancouver twice and played to a draw this season. They've beaten Dallas two out of three times.

"Dallas is a very good team – they won 16 games — but the Sounders seem to have had a much better matchup against them than they would’ve had against the Whitecaps," Art said. “The other big advantage is that Dallas had to play on Wednesday night and the Sounders have had a week's rest.

“A lot of things are lining up in the Sounders’ favor to go all the way, especially home-field advantage should they make the MLS Cup.”

Obafemi Martins Staying Put

The Sounders announced this week that star forward Obafemi Martins had signed a multi-year extension.

“That was great news for Sounders fans," Art said. "There was a rumor going around that he was in negotiations to return to Europe to play. And by securing him now, that isn’t going to happen."

He says Martins has blossomed this year.

"He’s a very good candidate to be the most valuable player in the league: leading scorer, tied for the assist lead. He’s really been a remarkable part of what’s happened here and I think he deserves that, over Clint Dempsey or anybody else in the league.

“Getting him secured for the future is yet another thing that points in the direction of a Sounders’ championship.”

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You can find Art Thiel’s work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.

Kirsten Kendrick has been hosting Morning Edition on KNKX/KPLU since 2006. She has worked in news radio for more than 30 years. Kirsten is also a sports lover. She handles most sports coverage at the station, including helping produce a two-part series on the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the ongoing series "Going Deep."
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between historylink.org and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.
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