As the Seattle Sounders prepare to face the Colorado Rapids in the Western Conference Championship, they have a golden opportunity to make up for years of near misses.
Do you believe in fate, or are you someone who thinks you control what the future has in store for you? Whatever your viewpoint is, the Seattle Sounders find themselves on the verge of their greatest achievement in franchise history.
There’s little denying this has been the Sounders’ strangest year since entering MLS in 2009. Whether it was the three defeats to start the season, parting ways with Sigi Schmid, losing Clint Dempsey or the amazing recovery to earn a playoff spot, this campaign has had it all.
In that respect, it seems almost ordained for the Rave Green to appear in their first ever MLS Cup final. After years of missed opportunities and — dare we say — underachievement, it would certainly epitomize what has been the most unlikely of seasons.
Of course, there are no guarantees in professional football and the Colorado Rapids will have something to say about the final outcome. Regardless, everything is set up for the Sounders to finally bring the game’s top silverware to Seattle.
In order to get past the Rapids, the Sounders’ biggest challenge will be to do just that. Colorado had the league’s stingiest defense this season, allowing just 32 goals.
Led by the physically imposing Axel Sjoberg, the Rapids also recorded 13 shutouts, making you realize the size of the task facing the Sounders. Interestingly, even the absence of goalkeeper Tim Howard may not prove to be the advantage Sounders fans will be hoping for.
Howard’s place in goal will be taken by Zac MacMath, who started 17 games this season. MacMath has impressed during his appearances, conceding just 13 goals and recording six shutouts.
With this in mind, the Sounders will be hopeful that Jordan Morris can play on Tuesday night. The 2016 MLS Rookie of the Year has been fighting to recover from a hamstring strain, which he suffered during the second leg of the previous round against FC Dallas.
In addition, the Rave Green will be optimistic that Alvaro Fernandez (hamstring) and Andreas Ivanschitz (sprained knee) can return, to boost the midfield. At least the Rapids also have some concerns, with the potential absence of Shkelzen Gashi, who leads the team in scoring this season.
As if we don’t have enough storylines already, Tuesday’s first leg will also see the return of four former Sounders players to CenturyLink Field. Of particular note, Marco Pappa and Micheal Azira both left Seattle just this past offseason.
Overall, the Western Conference Championship should prove to be an intriguing two-legged affair. Now all that remains is to find out if the Sounders’ destiny involves yet more playoff heartache or finally reaching the promised land.
What’s your prediction for Game 1 between the Sounders and Rapids? What do you think the final outcome will be, and why? Let us know in the comments section below.