By Anne M. Peterson
The Associated Press
Sure, the Seattle Sounders have an expectation that they’re going to win another MLS Cup, but that doesn’t mean they’re looking beyond Minnesota in the Western Conference final — especially given United’s upset victory over Sporting Kansas City.
The defending MLS Cup champion Sounders have played for the conference title in four of the last five seasons. Tonight, they’ll host Minnesota (6:30 p.m. FS1), which shocked Sporting 3-0 on Wednesday night in Kansas City. Kevin Molino scored a pair of goals.
“The bar that we set is very high, OK, and it’s reality. I mean, we don’t sugarcoat it, we don’t beat around the bush. We say, look, we want to win,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “We want to be successful. That is what drives a lot of our training sessions, drives the next man up, and all of the things that I say.”
Schmetzer is well aware that the Sounders are considered favorites.
“There’s always pressure. We’re not silly enough to read those quotes from different pundits, different experts, and then take our eye off the prize and forget about our friend Ozzie (Osvaldo Alonso), forget about Molino, forget about all the guys that they do have on the field, and think, ‘OK, we’re already in MLS Cup’,” he said. “That’s a bunch of bull. I almost swore, but that’s a bunch of baloney.”
The fourth-seeded Loons are led by Molina with four goals in the postseason.
Despite their recent success, the reality is that Minnesota is — again — the underdog against the Sounders.
“I think it was the bookies and everybody, I think when we got to the last eight teams, if I’m not mistaken, we were the outsiders of all the tournament. Maybe that’s changed a wee bit, but, I guarantee you, we’re going to be the underdogs again,” Loons coach Adrian Heath said. “So, hey, let’s go and enjoy that. Let’s go and enjoy the game. Let’s go and try and win it, and that’s what we’ll do.”
To advance two the conference final this season, Seattle downed FC Dallas 1-0 last week.
The steady Sounders have been to the playoffs every season since the team joined MLS in 2009. They won the MLS Cup twice, in 2016 and 2019, and they were the runners-up in 2017. Additionally, Seattle won the Supporters’ Shield in 2014.
Raul Ruidiaz had 12 goals for the Sounders this season and Nicolas Lodeiro had 10 assists.
Seattle leads the all-time series with Minnesota 5-0-1.