Even if Santos was an aberration and this does prove to be the best Sounders side yet, another trophy will be difficult.
Obviously, CONCACAF Champions League is now off the table, although the Sounders will get another chance in the 2012-13 competition.Simple odds seem to work against a fourth straight U.S. Open Cup. It’s a single-elimination tournament, and the chances have to be building for a bad game or bad call or bad break that ends the run. And there are more chances for something to go wrong with a reworked Open Cup schedule that demands a five-victory run to the title – one more than last season -- and a competition that for the first time includes all 16 U.S.-based MLS teams.
The path to Supporters Shield also seems more difficult, thanks to the league’s switch to an unbalanced schedule. The top handful of clubs – Los Angeles, Seattle, Salt Lake, Dallas – all compete in the West, meaning those teams will face each other three times, while top clubs of Eastern Conference can gobble up points while playing a presumably weaker schedule.
Even defending the Cascadia Cup seems more difficult, as Seattle must play four of the six matches at Portland and Vancouver.
Of course, the most prestigious league trophy is the MLS Cup. History has proven that everyone who makes it into the playoffs is a serious contender for the top prize – and the Sounders certainly have the look of a playoff team.
But they also have never won a playoff series. And changing that will likely be the top factor determining whether this season is looked upon as a failure or a success.