Seattle, the fourth seed in the Western Conference, will host Sporting Kansas City in a one-game playoff on Thursday at 7 p.m. PST.

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Goals from Alvaro Fernandez and Cristian Roldan led the way as the Sounders defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1 to clinch an eighth consecutive playoff berth on Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Field.

Seattle, the fourth seed in the Western Conference, will host Sporting Kansas City in a one-game playoff on Thursday at 7 p.m. PST.

These are my first impressions:

– After all that, the Sounders end up in a familiar spot.

At the end of this campaign, of all campaigns — after the midseason coaching chance and addition of Nicolas Lodeiro and loss of Clint Dempsey for the year — Seattle (14-14-6) winds up just about where it usually does this time of year: hosting a playoff game and with dreams of its first MLS Cup intact.

As it turned out, the Sounders would have gotten into the playoffs even with a loss, thanks to Vancouver’s rout of Portland at BC Place. But they needed a win to host a knockout round game, and came through with the required result.

– The hosts handled the pressure well.

Seattle entered Sunday knowing it needed nothing less than victory to ensure an eighth consecutive postseason berth. It did not play like a team struggling with the weight of such do-or-die stakes.

The Sounders’ opener might have been the best team goal of the season, with back heels from both Lodeiro and Jordan Morris setting up Fernandez with a tap in at the back post.

Even after RSL answered immediately through Luke Mulholland’s deflected strike, Seattle didn’t panic. It moved the ball around well, attacked with joyful abandon. After a week-and-a-half that betrayed some fraying nerves, the Sounders calmly took care of business on Sunday.

– Multiple Sounders rose to the occasion.

Asked this week how his team would replace Dempsey’s penchant for delivering in big games, interim coach Brian Schmetzer conceded that the team’s biggest star is irreplaceable.

In some ways, the absence of Dempsey – who has been out since late August with an irregular heartbeat and will not play again this season – could be felt most keenly in the weeks ahead, as stakes continue to rise.

Instead of looking for a like-for-like replacement, Schmetzer said, his team instead needed to collectively step up and fill the void. On Sunday, at least, they heeded his call.

Morris might not have scored, but he was credited with an assist on Fernandez’s opener. Lodeiro picked out Roman Torres’ head with a pinpoint corner kick in the 31st minute, and Roldan was on the doorstep to finish off the rebound when Nick Rimando got a head to Torres’ initial shot.

That spirit of collectivism bodes well as the postseason beckons.