Playoffs?! Only on the Pitch

Editor’s note: From time to time we like to feature guest writers on the site. Today we welcome Ryan Scally to Seattle Sportsnet. Ryan is an avid soccer fan and accomplished scribe, providing matchday reporting for Goal.com, among other publications. You can find him on Twitter @NWSoccerGuy. If you’ve ever wanted more soccer coverage, here it is. Let us know what you think.

By Ryan Scally

“Playoffs!? Playoffs?  You kiddin me?”  These words were famously uttered by Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Mora in a postgame news conference and has been used as a sound bite by every major sports network in the United States.

Seattleites can closely identify with this phrase in recent history. While the Husky football team has been improving, and the men’s basketball team is usually a lock for a March madness trip, the same cannot be said for our professional teams. The Mariners have been abysmal. The Seahawks somehow managed to make the playoffs last year, but appear headed for an early vacation this season.  The Sonics are long gone. Screw you Clay and Stern!

There is one team in Seattle that has made the playoffs three seasons in a row.  Okay, I guess technically the Storm has made numerous postseason runs and even won a few titles but this article is a lot funnier if I just say “one” team.

I am referring to your Seattle Sounders FC. Yes that’s correct. I’m speaking about the soccer team here in town that has swept several thousand people off of their feet and probably even stolen a few guy’s girlfriends. So, if you are one of those “soccer is boring” people, I won’t even waste time pointing out that you are an idiot and just ask that you please move on to the next article. I will point out though that the Sounders scored the same amount of points as the Hawks did this past weekend.

But I digress, the Sounders travel to Salt Lake City this weekend for the first leg of a two-leg home-home series. Feel free to Google aggregate scoring if you are unfamiliar with the process.

While the Sounders are old hands at winning the U.S. Open Cup — they are three-time Open Cup champions — the same cannot be said for the MLS Cup. They average only 0.25 goals in the playoffs and have yet to advance past the first round. Steve Zakuani’s meaningless late goal in L.A. last November is the only playoff goal in team history.

So why will this year be any different? Scoring, that’s why. The Sounders have found a way to put the ball into the back of the net. Unlike in years past, forward Fredy Montero is on a scoring hot streak. Perhaps more importantly he is on one at the right time. Newly acquired striker Sammy Ochoa has scored tw0 goals in his past two games and appears to be meshing well with head coach Sigi Schmid’s philosophy.

The team’s defense has had a few lapses in judgment recently, but I am optimistic that they will be stepping up their level in order to send retiring captain and goalkeeper Kasey Keller out in style.

One big question remains. How will the Sounders play without the little engine that could, midfielder Mauro Rosales? Rosales re-aggravated an MCL injury this past weekend at Chivas USA.  Rosales has been playing out of his mind this season after signing a one-year, $42,000 (yes, you read that correctly) contract. He has scored five goals and provided 13 assists. On the field, his pace and determination have immediately made him a fan favorite.

If the 2001 Seattle Mariners taught me one thing it’s that Bret Boone looked bad with frosted tips. It also taught me that the regular season means jack squat once the playoffs start. If the Sounders are able to continue to find ways to score goals, and also find a way to keep Real Salt Lake’s equally potent attack in check, they will stand a chance. They would move on to play the winner of the Los Angeles Galaxy-New York Red Bulls matchup.

Could this be the first Seattle professional team to win a league championship since the 1979 Seattle Supersonics (once again, my apologies to the Seattle Storm)? The pieces seem to be in place. The goal scoring is there. The storybook finish for a great captain is in waiting. And 36,000 fans have cheered their guts out since March.

It’s time to bring a title back to Seattle.

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