There are no more tomorrows now for the Seattle Sounders, with nothing less than a win on Sunday versus Houston Dynamo deemed good enough to still have a realistic chance of making the playoffs.
This has gotten serious now for the Sounders. No longer can fans be in denial that their club's unblemished 13-year run of qualifying for the playoffs is well and truly under threat.
The heart-breaking, injury time 3-2 defeat to Orlando City resulted in Seattle setting an unwanted franchise record of 15 losses in a single season. It also continued their awful form on the road in league play, taking their record to 3-10-2.
We've written recently about the Sounders' luck seemingly having finally run out and the writing being on the wall for their playoff hopes. As per sounderatheart.com, Seattle has a 15 percent chance of making the playoffs at this stage and will need something akin to their record-breaking run in 2018 to save the league season. (At one point in 2018, they only had a 10 percent chance of qualifying for the playoffs.)
Another sign Seattle just might not have it this year, comes from the Orlando game representing the second time they've lost in 2022 after holding a multiple-goal lead. Prior to this season, they had never lost when holding a lead of two or more goals, with a phenomenal record of 127 wins and one draw.
If nothing else, at least four of the Sounders' final six league games will be at home, starting on Sunday. Here are 10 things to know ahead of the matchup with Houston Dynamo at Lumen Field:
A significant advantage
1) The Sounders have a commanding lead in the head-to-head series versus the Dynamo. Seattle has won 14 and drawn seven of the 27 all-time games between the two sides, including winning 1-0 in Houston earlier this season.
2) The Rave Green is even more dominating at home, having won 10 and drawn three of the 13 all-time fixtures, including playoffs. The last time the two sides met at Lumen field last year the Sounders won 2-0, as they also set a MLS record of 13 unbeaten games to start a league season.
3) Seattle and Houston are two of the more successful sides in MLS history, as both are tied third all-time (alongside three other clubs) with two MLS Cups apiece. Both clubs have also appeared in four MLS Cup finals in total.
A scoring issue
4) These are two clubs who have struggled for goals this season, with the Sounders scoring 38 and the Dynamo 35, both in 28 league games. Seattle has a slight 12.3-11.8 edge in average shots per match, as well as a minor 4.1-4.0 advantage is attempts on goal per contest.
5) On an individual level, Jordan Morris and Raul Ruidiaz are tied for the team-lead with seven league goals a piece, while Nicolas Lodeiro has a team-high nine assists. Sebastian Ferreira leads the Dynamo with 10 league goals in his first MLS season, while Darwin Quintero has a club-high four assists.
6) Even though Albert Rusnak has shown a scoring touch of late with two goals in his past four games, it might not be a good sign if he strikes again on Sunday. Going back to last season with Real Salt Lake, his teams have drawn one and lost four of the five games he has scored in.
7) For what it's worth, the Sounders have a better success rate against Western Conference teams this year compared to the Eastern Conference, 42.9%-28.6%. Talking of worth, a Houston win has the best odds on Sunday, followed by a draw, with a Seattle win netting the least reward.
Absences and changes
8) Nothing has changed for the Sounders on the injury front, with the current available players likely to remain the same for the rest -- or at least the majority -- of the regular season. Joao Paulo is gone for the year with a right ACL tear, Obed Vargas is missing with a lower back stress fracture and also looking increasingly unlikely to return in 2022, while Cristian Roldan will be out for another three-to-five weeks after groin surgery.
9) On the subject of absences, Houston midfielder Héctor Herrera will potentially not play on Sunday, having missed the two previous games with a right leg injury. Having said that, the Mexican international's impact has been minimal, with just one assist and no goals in eight MLS games.
10) Speaking to the media after training on Saturday, head coach Brian Schmetzter was asked if he plans to shake things up against Houston, to try and get a better result. He said:
"That's not necessarily my style. I think steady is better than jumping around, but there will be a couple of changes from the last game and we'll see if those work. I think the players all understand that, whatever formation, whatever lineup we've put out there. We've played in (different) formations throughout the course of the year, so that will be based on match-ups (and) what we see game-to-game ... I think we're comfortable in any formation, but those guys have to bring energy."
What is your prediction for Sunday's game in Seattle? Will the Sounders win, draw, or lose against the Dynamo, and why? Let us know in the comments section below.