The Sounders are guaranteed of being in first place through the World Cup break, regardless of results the next five days.
The Sounders have never lost to the Chicago Fire.
The Sounders also get a nice weeklong vacation after Saturday’s 5:30 p.m. road game at Toyota Park.
A scenario for a letdown? Perhaps. No surprise coach Sigi Schmid said keeping the players focused for one last game was a unique challenge this week, “that they’re not thinking about where they’re going or what their plans are.
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“That’s something that’s there, but I think we’re motivated enough to find our focus.”
Seattle has done well in first place — a stark contrast to last season’s late collapse from the Supporters’ Shield lead — having maintained the top position for a team-record seven weeks. A rejuvenated defense has been key to the recent success, with shutouts in two of the last three weeks.
“It’s harder to stay there than to get there,” said Schmid, “and I think this year we’re showing a little more resiliency in trying to stay there.”
While first place isn’t on the line this weekend, momentum is.
Midfielder Brad Evans admitted the looming break is in the back of the players’ minds, “but you want to reward yourself and not look back in 2½ weeks and say, ‘What if we would’ve done this in Chicago?’ So I think that’s the MO: no ‘what ifs’ going into this break.”
The Fire is the only team in MLS that has never beaten Seattle. The Sounders hold a 5-0-3 advantage in league games, not to mention a win in the 2011 U.S. Open Cup final. Chicago has seen a lead disappear in three of those games, including last season’s meeting.
“History is maybe there,” Schmid said, “but there are so many guys on the field who have no part of that history, so I think you don’t think about it. As a coach, it’s something you can maybe use as motivation, and I’m sure (Fire coach Frank Yallop) will use that.”
• Seattle has loaned GK Josh Ford to the Orange County Blues of the third-tier USL PRO until June 14, when the Sounders return to practice after the break.