Will this be the year the Sounders advance out of the first round of the Major League Soccer playoffs? That's the question fans and media have been asking the team leading up to a first-round series against Real Salt Lake.
Veteran midfielder Brad Evans has won some sort of championship trophy every season he's been a professional, including the MLS cup as a member of the Columbus Crew. I asked Evans what it will take for Seattle to end its playoff misfortunes.
"It's going to take hard work, that's the most important thing," Evans said. "It's also going to take dedication from all the players in every part of the field."
Luck and health are also key ingredients to playoff soccer, according to coach Sigi Schmid.
"You've got to put in the work, have the experience, the confidence and the will to win" he said in our Coach's Corner interview. "Those are ingredients we have. Sometimes you need a little bit of luck, you know, the ball needs to bounce your way."
Last fall the Sounders lost their playmaker, Mauro Rosales, to a knee injury just before the postseason. They were soundly beaten 3-nil in the first leg in Utah, and could never quite catch Real Salt Lake in the second game. Evans knows Seattle must get the jump on the visitors at CenturyLink Field this time.
"We've got to play the crowd, play our high, intense game," he said. "It's on synthetic turf, and not a lot of teams are used to it. I know our forwards and midfielders are gong to create chances. The bottom line is, are we going to finish those chances?"
In three prior meetings with RSL this season, the Sounders failed to score. Both teams are among the best defensive groups in Major League Soccer. Also, Seattle is likely without one of its best offensive weapons, Eddie Johnson, for the opening game.
The athletic forward strained his hamstring in the regular-season finale and has been gingerly trying to practice and receive treatment this week. Schmid indicated it's more likely Johnson would be ready to play in the second leg of the aggregate series in Utah next Thursday.
Injuries have also hit the Sounders defense with Leo Gonzalez and Patrick Ianni not available Friday.
The match can be heard at 7 p.m. on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM with Ross Fletcher and Kasey Keller on the call.