Sounders: 10 things to know ahead of final 2022 game versus San Jose
Sunday is Decision Day in MLS, but the Sounders find themselves in unfamiliar territory. For the first time since joining MLS in 2009, they will not have a chance at a playoff spot.
As a result, Seattle's MLS record of consecutive playoff qualifications ends at 13 seasons. Making this even worse, the New York Red Bulls now equal this record, having once more made the postseason in 2022.
There are plenty of reasons why the Sounders didn't make the playoffs, but ultimately there's no getting past the 17 league losses. Their previous high was 14 defeats -- which was set in 2016 but ended with their first MLS Cup -- which gives you some idea of exactly how tough it's been this season.
This is further accentuated by Seattle entering Sunday's final game with a +1 goal difference, to highlight how competitive they've remained. Only 12 MLS teams have a better goal difference as things stand, including six in the Western Conference.
The Seattle Sounders will not qualify for the MLS playoffs for the first time in franchise history, but they still have one league game remaining in 2022, at home to the San Jose Earthquakes.
The Sounders have been extremely unlucky this year, especially when it comes to dropping points as a result of conceding injury-time goals. This includes games in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Orlando.
Regardless, Seattle still has one more game to go, before looking at what they can do to return to the playoffs next season. Here are 10 things to consider ahead of the game at Lumen Field versus San Jose:
1) No matter what happens against the Earthquakes, the Sounders will set a new franchise record for fewest points in a season. Their previous low was 47 points in their inaugural year in 2009; they enter Sunday's game with 40 points.
2) On the subject of records, San Jose achieved one versus Seattle earlier this season in a 4-3 win. The game represented the first time in Sounders MLS history that they gave up a two-goal lead and lost.
3) The two teams are fairly evenly matched in the 39 all-time head-to-head meetings, with the Sounders holding a slight advantage of 16 wins versus San Jose's 14 victories. In Seattle specifically, the Rave Green have 10 wins, two draws and six losses in 18 league games.
Struggles on the road
4) One of the main reasons Seattle failed to qualify for the playoffs this year is their road record, but San Jose is even worse on their travels. They have just one away win in 2022 and enter the final game with just seven road points, which is tied for the fewest in MLS.
5) The Earthquakes may be below the Sounders in the standings and with a significantly worse goal difference, but one thing they have done better is score. They hold a 50-45 advantage over Seattle and are led by Jeremy Ebobisse, who has this year set a new personal MLS single-season best of 16 goals.
6) Another example of Seattle's struggles in league play this season is Raul Ruidiaz leading the way with just nine goals, albeit he has missed 15 games. If Ruidiaz doesn't score on Sunday, it will be the first time since 2013 the Sounders do not have at least one player in double figures. (Jordan Morris can theoretically also reach 10 league goals, but only if he scores a hat-trick against San Jose.)
7) A Sounders victory is considered the most likely outcome on Sunday, in respect of their odds of 4/7. The chances of a Earthquakes win are listed as 15/4, while you can get 10/3 on a draw being the final outcome.
8) With Cristian Roldan now back, the Sounders are missing just Joao Paulo and Obed Vargas through injury. Paulo was ruled out for the season after suffering a right ACL tear in May, while Vargas has an ongoing issue with a lower back stress fracture.
Reviewing the season
9) Head coach Brian Schmetzer spoke to the media on Wednesday and was asked if he felt the level of motivation had remained the same after winning the CONCACAF Champions League. He said:
"I think there was some initial hangover, taking the foot off the gas or whatever right after we won, but I thought mentally the guys were engaged for large parts of the year. I think there's too many small details to just pin it on one thing, i.e. the mental side. I think there's other things (such as) physical, training games, all of that. That three-game stretch I always go back to -- Portland away, Orlando away, the Galaxy away -- we were competitive in all three games. I don't think they lost that at any time, but having said that, I don't have the answer to why we lost two and drew with the Galaxy after we should have won. "
10) Roldan also spoke to the media on Wednesday and was asked if this had been a successful season, when taking everything into account. He said:
"I haven't reflected on that. It's hard for me to give a pinpoint answer. It's been three days since we've essentially been out of the playoffs. What I will say though, is that we've been in every game and it's been a really frustrating year in that sense, because we never felt like we got blown out. We never felt that we were played off the field and I think that's one of the most frustrating things, because we were in every single game and to lose so many games by one goal is really frustrating and in the end (if) we get a couple more ties here and there, you're in the playoffs and we're not talking about this. "
* Statistics courtesy of soundersfc.com
What do you predict will be the outcome on Sunday? Will the Sounders win, draw or lose, and why? Let us know in the comments section below.