With a win Sunday in their regular-season finale against Colorado, Sounders FC would finish in second place and get a bye.
For Will Bruin and his Sounders, the 2017 playoffs have already begun.
Technically, there’s a regular-season finale to play on Sunday at CenturyLink Field against the Colorado Rapids. But in reality, with the Sounders having the potential to finish as high as second or as low as fifth in the Western Conference, they know this is where their fortunes could be decided.
“The way I look at it is that it’s a must win because you want to control your own destiny,’’ said Bruin, whose two goals in last Sunday’s 4-0 win over FC Dallas helped clinched the team’s eighth consecutive playoff berth.
Colorado @ Sounders FC, 1 p.m., JOEtv
“You want to avoid the knockout round because anything can happen in those games. So, we can only help ourselves, and that’s what we’re looking to do.’’
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Teams especially want to avoid the dreaded sudden-death knockout round on the road. Over the last four years, home teams have won 11 of 12 knockout-round contests — with only the Montreal Impact bucking that trend by winning last year at D.C. United.
The top two playoff teams get an automatic bye into the two-legged, aggregate-goal conference quarterfinal series. With a victory, the Sounders would automatically finish second.
Bruin agrees the team’s attack is starting to click, with Spanish newcomer Victor Rodriguez giving the club an added dimension, missing much of the year out on the left wing. Rodriguez scored the first and decisive goal against Dallas in the 31st minute after a nice run and finish off a giveaway.
“We’ve got some dynamic pieces in the final third,’’ Bruin said. “I think the addition of Victor (Rodriguez) has been great. We’ve seen what he can do and the threat he can be.”
Bruin adds that “personnel” isn’t as big a deal for the team at this stage. They know how they want to play, where their spacing needs to be and now simply must execute.
“But getting that jell and that chemistry is really important,’’ he said. “And hopefully we can keep it going.’’
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer agreed that, come Sunday, “we’re viewing it as a playoff game’’ and said he’s challenged the entire organization — coaches, players, trainers and even equipment managers — to up their game and “go over all the details’’ so the team doesn’t come up short.
Like Bruin, he wants to avoid the knockout round at all costs.
“It’s a one-and-done,’’ he said. “And you know that in this league full of parity you could end up fifth and then you don’t even have a home game.’’
Schmetzer said the team’s offensive identity has come more into focus the last couple of home games — won by a cumulative 7-0 total. The team’s road-scoring woes have been well-documented much of the season, but Schmetzer feels the overall talent level is starting to push its way though.
“I think Victor Rodriguez has come on and done a really good job for us,’’ he said. “I think his connection with (Clint) Dempsey and Nico (Lodeiro) and Cristian (Roldan) and everybody was good.’’
And Schmetzer has been impressed with how individual players have stepped up to fill in for injured teammates. Bruin has done it in the absence of striker Jordan Morris, whose playoff availability is still uncertain.
Gustav Svensson will miss the regular-season finale with a hamstring strain suffered against Dallas, as will Osvaldo Alonso, who hurt his quad in the same game. The injuries forced Lodeiro to drop back into a defensive midfield role the remainder of the Dallas match, which he did while continuing to have a strong impact the rest of the way.
“That’s what this team has been about,’’ Schmetzer said.
And what it will have to continue to be if it hopes to go deep into its title defense.