The clock is edging closer to midnight on the Seattle Sounders' chances of extending their MLS record 13 consecutive playoff qualifications and they must beat FC Cincinnati.
This is it now for the Seattle Sounders - there are no more tomorrows. Yes, we've written this in a manner of speaking in recent weeks, but now it really is true.
After last weekend's lackluster 2-1 loss in Vancouver, the Sounders quite simply have to win all three of their remaining games to have any chance of qualifying for the playoffs. And even nine points out of nine may still not be enough.
Entering the game versus Cincinnati, Seattle sits six points outside the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Yes they've got a game in hand, but it won't matter if they don't win on Tuesday night at Lumen Field.
This season has the potential for the Sounders to set a plethora of unwanted franchise records in league play. They've already lost their most ever games with 16; failure to win their final three games will set a club record for fewest points in a single season.
The Rave Green will also finish outside the top seven in the Supporters' Shield standings for the first time since joining MLS, and they have never finished lower than fourth in the Western Conference standings.
On the positive side, the fact Seattle actually still has a chance to qualify for the playoffs is a minor miracle.
In this respect, let's dive into Tuesday night's fixture with FC Cincinnati. Here are 10 things to know ahead of a game where nothing less than a win is good enough:
1) The two sides have only met once so far, during FC Cincinnati's inaugural MLS season in 2019. The Sounders won 4-1 at home, with Jordan Morris scoring twice.
A multitude of absences
2) On the subject of Morris, he will be one of at least four players who will be missing due to international commitments. The rest of the list includes Alex Roldan, Xavier Arreaga, Nouhou and Raul Ruidiaz.
3) There was some hope Ruidiaz and Roldan would be released by their respective international teams, due to them not qualifying for the upcoming World Cup in Qatar. However, as perJeremiah Oshan of Sounder at Heart, Peru said this would not be possible for Ruidiaz. There has been no confirmation from El Salvador regarding Roldan at the time of writing.
4) The absence situation has been made even tougher for Seattle after Nicolas Lodeiro received a yellow card for a late tackle in the Vancouver game. As a result, he has been suspended for Tuesday night due to yellow card accumulation.
Potential good news
5) There is some hope for the Sounders though, with the update that Cristian Roldan will hopefully be able to feature at some point versus FC Cincinnati. Roldan recently underwent surgery to fix a lingering groin issue and is ahead of schedule in his recovery.
6) Aside from Roldan, it's essentially status quo on the injury front. Joao Paulo is out for season after a right ACL tear while Obed Vargas is also unlikely to return this year due to a lower back stress fracture.
7) FC Cincinnati is on a roll at the moment, having lost just one of their previous 17 games and going unbeaten in their last 10. This is the longest unbeaten streak in franchise history and is tied for the longest this season in MLS.
A major scoring threat
8) Seattle will have their hands full with a Cincinnati side that has 56 league goals in 31 games, which is fifth-most in the league. The Orange and Blue are led by Brandon Vazquez and Brenner Souza da Silva, who have scored 16 and 14 times respectively.
9) Stefan Frei is regarded as one of the better and more consistent goalkeepers in the league. However, he will have to be weary of long-range shots; since the beginning of the 2017 MLS season he has allowed 33 goals from outside the box, which is five more than any other goalie.
10) Head coach Brian Schmetzer spoke to the media last Wednesday and gave an interesting insight into how he strategically organized training sessions given the 10-day gap between games. He said:
" We needed to ramp up some training work with them to make sure they're 90-minutes fit, or at least as close to 90-minutes fit as possible. Then we'll have an assimilated game (on Thursday).... We'll make a couple of tweaks in the lineup in that 45 minutes, to take a look at some different things. Then we'll give them one day off on the Friday and we'll have a three day build into Cincinnati, where we'll really bear down on the tactics for that game."- Brian Schmetzer
What's your prediction for Tuesday night's game? Will the Sounders win, draw, or lose and why? Let us know in the comments section below.