It began to feel something like coming full circle today at Sounders practice. It was a cool and cloudy morning, much like the mornings way back in March when the expansion team was preparing for its first game. Now, the last two -- of the regular season -- are directly in sight. The geese that were flying north way back when, were headed south today. And lots of players were back in long pants and heavier tops.
And not surprisingly, the chief topic of conversation involved these final two games, and the hopes of extending the season into the playoffs -- which the Sounders can clinch with three points Saturday in Kansas City.
A few quotes from Sigi Schmid:
On bye week: “In the past on the bye’s we have given them [players] three or four days. On this one we worked through Friday and then gave them two days. We worked longer today in terms of length of time and we will back off tomorrow. From that standpoint, we are not treating this like a regular bye.”
On Sounders FC playoff chances: “It’s nice to be in control of your own destiny. You don’t have to hope that we will win and they will lose and they will lose which is sort of what Kansas City has. They have to win and other teams have to lose. It’s always a lot better to be in the position that we are in where let’s just win and we are there. The only scoreboard we need to watch is our own scoreboard.”
On the overall tightness of this MLS playoff race: “This is about as tight as I have seen it in terms of the most amount of teams still having an opportunity and also probably as tight for the number of positions. First place in the West isn’t secured at this point. I have seen it where it comes down to three teams competing for the last playoff spot or four teams competing for the last two playoff spots. But it’s rare when you see it go this late in the season with two games left and teams are still competing not only to get into the playoffs but also to finish first or second in their particular conference. It’s a lot tighter than it has been in the past.