Clint Dempsey was the last Sounder to leave the practice field at Starfire Sports Complex on Wednesday morning, but he was far from the only one.

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Sounders forward Clint Dempsey was the last player on the field at Starfire Sports Complex on Wednesday morning. His practice sessions had been limited so far this week after 120 minutes of action on Saturday night as the United States lost to rival Mexico in extra time, so he lagged behind, firing away at an empty net.

It had been Dempsey’s kind of practice session, one of unhurried purpose. For one of the first times this season, there was a really sense of autumn in the Northwest air, the coming winter beginning to make its presence felt.

Dempsey was the last one to leave the field, but he was far from the only one.

“It’s a good sign when your guys don’t want to leave the field,” Seattle assistant Brian Schmetzer shouted over his shoulder on the way out, shooting drills ongoing behind him.

The end of the MLS regular season is rising up suddenly, two weeks of playoff implications and must-wins hidden behind a late-season bye week.

The Sounders are approaching full strength, with Chad Marshall close to full training and Nelson Valdez and Oniel Fisher each “making improvements, making strides,” as Sigi Schmid put it Wednesday. Brad Evans returns to Seattle from USMNT duty at some point on Wednesday, and he’s even playing on getting a light workout in despite playing 90 minutes against Costa Rica on Tuesday night.

All of them could play on Sunday in Houston, where the Dynamo will either be fighting desperately to stay in the playoff picture or eliminated before the match even kicks off. Seattle seems unfazed by the stakes, a subtle confidence backed up by the cushion above the playoff cutoff line.

October is really and truly here now, and so are the games that count.

 – Sounders winger Marco Pappa continued his recent good form while playing for Guatemala on Wednesday night, scoring the opening goal with a clean strike from the edge of El Salvador’s penalty box. He then — in keeping with the theme of this Sounders season — was taken out of the game early with a possible injury.

Though Schmid had no real update to provide while awaiting Pappa’s returns to Seattle, he did praise the winger’s recent play.

“He’s been training well,” Schmid said. “He’s obviously came into a couple of games as a sub and had some good moments. We’ll hopefully continue to see him play well and do well.”

 – Plenty of intriguing MLS action on tap Wednesday night, even if the big TFC-Red Bulls game is currently getting overshadowed by postseason baseball craziness elsewhere in Toronto.

Dallas and Vancouver face off with heavy Western Conference seeding implications on the line starting at 6 p.m. PST, while Portland and Salt Lake will put playoff lives on the line at Rio Tinto Stadium at 6:30.