The Seattle Sounders 2-0 win over the Colorado Rapids Saturday night marked the third time the club has started the season 2-0. Seattle started the season 2-0 in 2009 its first year in Major League Soccer and 2012. The Rave Green made it to the postseason both of those years. Since the Sounders have not missed the playoffs in there eleven years in the league it is a foregone conclusion that they will qualify for the postseason in 2019.
In 2019 its not just about making the playing the playoffs. Where you finish in the regular season has a great statistical bearing on how far you will go due to Major League Soccer’s revamping of the postseason during the past offseason.
The preseason revamping of the postseason by MLS has made it a priority to win the Supporters Shield. The top two teams in each Conference are awarded a bye in the first round of the playoffs. In 2018 it was the top two teams in each conference that received a first-round bye.
Add in the fact that in 2019 all playoff games will be single elimination with the higher seeded team hosting the one and done game, one can see why it’s important to grab every goal and point you can during the regular season. The one bright note to the offseason playoff revamp was that 14 teams will qualify for the postseason instead of 12.
The mission in 2019 for the all the Western Conference big clubs like the Sounders, Portland Timbers, LAFC, Sporting KC, LA Galaxy and anyone else who considers themselves to be a legitimate threat to win the MLS Cup is clear, grab the Conference’s top seed and be a rude host as you play your way to the MLS Title.
With each goal and game so important one can understand why Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer was pleased with his teams 2-0 win but not overly satisfied that his club played its best soccer.
“We left a little meat on the bone in the sense that, yeah our play is great in the first 10 minutes but it’s still early. It’s the second game in. The attacking movements are always the hardest thing to do. In soccer, the goals are the hardest thing to come by. And so we will watch the tape and make sure that our movement in the box is in the right spots. You know, make sure that the guys who are crossing the balls are picking out the right guys. Making sure that we pick out the right balance because we are really dangerous from outside but what if teams start noticing that? We have to find Raul [Ruidiaz]. The yellow cards, I told them it got a little chippy. I mean last week Colorado came back from a man down to tie it up 3-3.
They are a team that doesn’t give up. So at 2-0 it’s a dangerous lead and they are still kind of chipping away and there’s some fouls in midfield that could have caused the game to get out of control a little bit. Some of the yellow cards for throwing the ball away. I like my team to settle down. You know, we want to play soccer.”
In one game playoff matches, the higher seed has a winning percentage of .673 % in 49 matches compared to a .552% winning percentage in 78 two-legged series. The 2019 playoffs will start October 19th and finish November 10th. All the action will happen during the FIFA International breaks meaning it will be three weeks of MLS playoff drama.
The key to winning the race for the Supporters Shield is not just about scoring goals but playing hard-nosed defense that will produce a high goal differential number. The GD number is a result of subtracting the number of goals scored against the number of goals scored. The Sounders, LAFC and Minnesota United have all started the season with a 2-0 record. The Rave Green currently occupy the top spot in the Western Conference due to their five GD rating. LAFC and Minnesota have a four GD rating.