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Sports >  Seattle Sounders

For the Sounders, Sunday’s regular-season finale vs. San Jose has massive playoff implications. Here’s what’s at stake.

UPDATED: Sun., Nov. 8, 2020

Seattle Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz (9) and Colorado Rapids midfielder Jack Price (19) in the second half of an MLS soccer match Sunday, Nov. 1 2020, in Commerce City, Colo.  (Associated Press)
Seattle Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz (9) and Colorado Rapids midfielder Jack Price (19) in the second half of an MLS soccer match Sunday, Nov. 1 2020, in Commerce City, Colo. (Associated Press)
By Jayda Evans Seattle Times

SEATTLE – An unprecedented Major League Soccer season held on to one familiarity – a drama-filled Decision Day.

The league historically schedules all of its final regular-season games on the same day, often kicking off at the same time across the nation, maximizing scoreboard watching of results that have playoff implications. Whether because of or despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Sunday’s Decision Day is no different.

The Sounders enter their finale against the San Jose Earthquakes at CenturyLink Field with the possibility of finishing first or, at worst, fourth in the Western Conference standings. A win against San Jose combined with a Sporting Kansas City draw or loss against Real Salt Lake and Portland tying or losing to Los Angeles FC on Sunday clinches the West for Seattle (10-5-6).

MLS is using points per game to determine standings.

“The games leading to the first playoff game are extremely important because it kind of propels us into that mindset that we’re going to make another run for (the) MLS Cup,” Sounders midfielder Alex Roldan said following the club’s draw against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday. “We’ve still got another game left that can set us up for that mentality. We’re looking forward to Sunday and turning it around to get some points.”

The Sounders, who are making their league-leading 12th consecutive playoff appearance, are guaranteed home-field advantage in the opening round with any of the top four spots in the standings.

Sunday’s match is the Sounders’ fourth of the season against the Quakes, although the July matchup was part of the MLS is Back tournament in Florida. The only resounding result was Seattle’s 7-1 win at CenturyLink in September. The other two finished in scoreless draws.

The Quakes (8-8-6) enter the match amped after earning the club’s first postseason berth in three years with a 3-1 win against LAFC on Wednesday. Striker Chris Wondolowski, the league’s all-time leading goal scorer, pushed his career total to 166 with a score in the win.

San Jose, which plays a unique man-marking style, is unbeaten in four of its past five matches, including a scoreless draw against Seattle in October.

But the Sounders are on a 12-game unbeaten streak against the Quakes, which are currently the eighth and final seed in the West.

“Matias Almeyda should be in consideration for Coach of the Year,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said of his San Jose counterpart during a video conference call with media Friday. “After that rough patch where we scored a bunch of goals on them and they had a number of other tough results, everybody said San Jose is done, they’re going to fire their coach. They were dead.

“(Almeyda), true to his own self, true to his beliefs, his playing style, got that team to refocus, regroup and come back and make the playoffs, which is a tremendous story. A tremendous success.”

Schmetzer expects the Sounders to give San Jose an unhappy regular-season finish. The defending MLS Cup champions haven’t flexed on opponents as they would like to end the schedule.

The Sounders will have their healthiest roster available as left back Brad Smith (adductor strain) and Roman Torres (illness) returned to training and first-choice starters like defender Kelvin Leerdam, forward Jordan Morris and midfielder Cristian Roldan were rested this week. There’s even comfort that young players such as Ethan Dobbelaere and Shandon Hopeau played well in their brief appearances this season, creating more depth for a playoff run.

The Sounders could still be without midfielder Miguel Ibarra, who left the team last week due to a personal issue. Schmetzer would not give any details about the situation or timetable for return. Ibarra started three of his 12 appearances this season, totaling 248 minutes.

“The playoffs are now. Sunday is a playoff game,” Schmetzer said. “The odds are against us because MLS is a league that wants parity. But if you look at the Seattle Sounders, we’ve been in three of the last four championship games. We’ve won two of them and there’s no reason to say why we can’t go and even in a year full of challenges, defend our title. Count San Jose and it’s five games left in the year. So, why not us?”

Here are the scenarios at play for the Sounders on Sunday:

The Sounders will finish first if …

The Sounders win vs. the San Jose Earthquakes AND

Sporting Kansas City draws or loses vs. Real Salt Lake AND

Portland Timbers draw or lose vs. LAFC

The Sounders will finish second if …

The Sounders win AND

Either Portland or SKC win and the other draws or loses

Or

The Sounders draw AND

Portland loses

The Sounders will finish third if …

The Sounders win AND

Both Portland and SKC win

Or

The Sounders draw AND

Portland wins or draws

Or

The Sounders lose AND

FC Dallas draws or loses vs. Minnesota United

The Sounders will finish fourth if …

The Sounders lose AND

FC Dallas wins

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