The Seattle Sounders are looking to pad their lead in the MLS Western Conference when they entertain Sporting Kansas City on Saturday afternoon.
Seattle (17-6-7, 58 points) leads Sporting (15-7-7, 52 points) by six points, with the latter having a game in-hand with two weeks left in the regular season. Sporting Kansas City are tied with Colorado in points but also have a game in-hand with the Rapids.
With a victory, or a combination of other results this weekend, Sporting will clinch a playoff berth for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons. The only team with a better record in playoff appearances in that span is the Sounders, who already have clinched their 11th straight postseason appearance.
The two sides split the first two meetings this year, with the Sounders winning 2-1 in Kansas City on Sept. 26 and SKC posting a 3-1 victory in Seattle on July 25.
Sporting has won two straight matches in Seattle and is 7-3-3 in the last 13 regular-season meetings against the Sounders.
Sporting has a potent 1-2 punch in Daniel Salloi and Johnny Russell. Salloi is tied for second in MLS with 16 goals, one behind D.C. United's Ola Kamara. Russell has 11 goals and has scored in six straight matches, tied with Kamara for the longest streak in the league this season. Sporting leads the West in goals scored with 52.
"I always feel like I can score, even in the beginning of the season when I wasn't scoring goals," Russell said. "I've been in goal-scoring form recently. But the team comes first. My job is to help score goals, but ours as a whole is more important."
The Sounders have their own offensive weapon in Raul Ruidiaz, who is tied with Salloi with 16 goals. Seattle's defense is stout as well, with a league-best 0.87 goals allowed per game.
Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer knows that familiarity with an opponent can help.
"We'll probably follow the same type of game plan that we played against Kansas City a couple weeks back," he said. "It's a little easier when you play an opponent recently. Kansas City really hasn't changed in the last two weeks. We'll revisit what we did well against them in Kansas City."
--Field Level Media