Key storylines, broadcast information and players to watch for ahead of Sunday afternoon's match between the Sounders and FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium.
Sounders match day
Seattle Sounders (13-13-6) at FC Dallas (16-8-8)
2 p.m. Sunday at Toyota Stadium
TV: JOEtv, Univision-Seattle. Radio: El Rey 1360 AM
Scoreboard watching: Seven teams are still alive for the six Western Conference playoff berths, with three of them having already clinched. The fourth-place Sounders could punch their postseason ticket on Sunday, too, and might not even need a result of their own to do so.
Portland, which also plays at 2 p.m. on Sunday, needs a win over first-place Colorado at Providence Park to maintain any hope of catching its biggest rival. The other game to watch is Real Salt Lake-Sporting Kansas City, as either one of the teams currently in fifth and sixth place could leapfrog Seattle with a victory at Rio Tinto Stadium.
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Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake and Kansas City all still harbor hopes of hosting a one-game playoff, depending on how this next week goes. Each of them could still end up as the odd team out, too.
RSL visits CenturyLink Field next Sunday for the regular-season finale. It would behoove the Sounders to be playing merely for seeding at that point.
Seeking the Shield: Though FC Dallas has already clinched a spot in the postseason, it also has plenty to play for on Sunday afternoon.
The Rapids jumped into first place in the Supporters’ Shield standings (and officially eliminated the Earthquakes) with their home win on Wednesday night. FCD is currently just a single point back. So while the Sounders and Timbers are both playing for their lives, both of their opponents have their sights set on a much loftier prize than mere playoff qualification.
Dallas ended its 19-year trophy drought when it lifted the U.S. Open Cup back in September. It can become the first team since the 2014 Sounders to win the Open Cup and regular-season title in the same year — and bolster hopes of becoming the first-ever team to claim both those and MLS Cup.
Missing Alonso: Seattle will be without defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, who was red carded in the scoreless draw against Houston on Wednesday at CenturyLink. That is an ominous sign for the Sounders.
Alonso, a legitimate MLS Most Valuable Player candidate at the age of 30, has missed just one game so far this season: The 3-0 loss at Kansas City that doubled as Sigi Schmid’s last game as coach.
“It’s tough,” said midfield partner Cristian Roldan after the Houston game. “(Alonso) is the heart of our team. He’s a guy who we need on our roster and on the field at all times. Whenever you’re missing the most important piece of your team, it’s difficult to replace him.”
The impact of Alonso’s absence is two-fold. Not only is the back line more exposed without his defensive shield, teammates are less likely to push forward in attack without Alonso in there to provide cover.
This marks the third straight match that Seattle will be without a key difference maker due to suspension, from Nicolas Lodeiro in Vancouver to Brad Evans against the Dynamo to Alonso on Sunday.
Prediction: FC Dallas 3, Sounders 1.