Here are some final thoughts from Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid heading into Sunday’s game against the New York Red Bulls, a clash between conference leaders. The winner could be the first team in MLS to clinch a playoff berth, if results go right.
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(Do the big games these past few weeks — playing RSL for first place, playing NY for first place, going to LA — serve as any sort of preparation for the playoffs or are the playoffs a different beast?) “Anytime you play games of meaning, I think it’s important. When I last won the championship with Columbus, we secured the Supporters’ Shield, we secured our playoff position early, and the question was, ‘Do you just play reserves? Do you rest people?’ And so what we did is we played a few reserves and protected guys from injuries with two games to go, but in the final game of the season we played our best team because I wanted them in a rhythm of play. I think when your best group is in a rhythm of play playing against tough teams, there’s a certain quality that builds up in there that’s important.”
(Clinching a playoff berth hadn’t always seemed like a certainty this season, but if results go right, you could be first in the league to do so. What would it say to make it 5-for-5 in postseason appearances?) “I think it says a lot for the club and the organization for us to have started us well getting into the playoffs in our first year and then to be there (again and again). It’s only I think us, L.A. and Salt Lake that have that opportunity. For us to do that as an expansion team year in and year out speaks for the consistency and the quality of the organization, that you’re not only selling tickets and all that — we all see that part of the organization — but just the consistency of the product that we’ve put onto field and the product that we present to our fans.”
(Did you ever doubt or wonder if this might be the year it didn’t happen?) “For me? No. I never felt that way. But that’s just me. I know there were a lot of people out there who felt that way and started to doubt a little bit, but I think the group always believed in it and, for me, it was something I always believed in, as well.”
(Crazy to think a few months ago you were being asked questions about panicking?) “It is what it is, and you have to deal with it. But it’s important, the old saying — don’t get too high, don’t get too low depending on wins and losses. What you’re really looking for is, ‘Just stay steady. You know what you’re doing and you know what you believe in.’ It was interesting because my son is an assistant coach right now at a Division I program, and they lost a game. He texted me yesterday and goes, ‘I can’t believe we lost a game. … It’s still eating at me. … How do you deal with this?’ My response to him was, ‘You have to believe in what you’re doing, you have to be focused on the next task and sometimes a primal scream in a room is a good thing, too.’ So you never know.”