Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Field will pit two teams that are fighting on the fringes of the playoffs against each other. The Seattle Sounders and Orlando City currently sit in the sixth and seventh positions in their respective conferences, and with just ten games remaining, there’s little room for anymore dropped points if either team hopes to be competing in the post season. Sunday offers both teams the opportunity to edge closer to one of the coveted playoff positions, but a win this weekend won’t push them into one of the top four spots.

Let’s start with the hosts. Seattle are in the midst of six game winless streak, and out of those six games, the team has only managed to get one point. Last weekend, it was the Los Angeles Galaxy that benefitted from the Sounders’ poor run of form as they manhandled the team from Washington 3-1. Throughout the humbling defeat, the Galaxy exposed the weaknesses that Seattle had in their backline and midfield as poor man marking in the box and cheap giveaways in attack led to all three goals. Sigi Schmid made a major signing this week in an attempt to strengthen his shaky backline bringing in Panamanian captain Roman Torres. Torres endeared himself to viewers of this year’s Gold Cup with his passionate play on the field, and Sounders’ fans will be hoping some of this passion will carry over to the MLS.

The only thing more worrying than the defensive problems the team has is its inability to score goals. The last time Seattle scored more than once in a match was all the way back on June 14th against FC Dallas. Since then, the Sounders have been shutout six times in just 11 matches. To make things even worse for Seattle fans, the team is unsure whether or not co-leading scorers Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins will be fit for Sunday’s match. In an attempt to cope with these absences, the club signed Paraguayan international Nelson Valdez. Valdez has spent time the majority of his career in the Bundesliga with the likes of Werder Bremen, Borussia Dortmund and most recently Entracht Frankfurt. While the 31-year-old won’t provide the same threat as Martins or Dempsey, he should give the team a veteran presence up front and hopefully chip in two or three goals in the final stretch of the season.

While Orlando City’s recent form is better than their opponents, the team from Florida looks far from a playoff contender. In the team’s last eight league fixtures, they have claimed just one victory and have gathered just five points out of a possible 24. Thrashings from Toronto (4-1), New York City FC (5-3), and the Chicago Fire (3-1) reminded fans that this is Orlando’s first year together. A slump in form was bound to happen as the grind of the season takes it toll on players that are still trying to build chemistry that usually takes years to forge. Currently, Orlando is three wins below a .500 record, and a difficult schedule to end the season makes it unlikely they ever reach this mark. A victory over Seattle could provide a spark to the team’s momentum, but I think that a playoff position is just a pipe dream.

One player that has thrived in the team’s first year is Ricardo Kaká. The Ballon d’Or winner has seemingly found the form that made him one of the most entertaining players to watch in his prime. During a friendly against West Bromwich Albion of the Premier League, Kaká took the ball in the center circle and took the ball past the entire West Brom defense before placing his shot in the side netting. The Brazilian is Orlando’s second best goal scorer with nine goals from a primarily midfield position and he also has the team lead in assists with four. His star quality and leadership on the pitch are a major reason that Orlando are still somewhat in the playoff picture. I expect him to shine again against Seattle, but can he push them to an invaluable three points.

If there was ever a place for Seattle to break this losing streak it’s at CenturyLink. Sounders fans have consistently proven themselves as the best in the league and they will need to be out in full force Sunday because their team needs as much help as they can get. The 12th man’s influence makes me think that Seattle defend their home turf and walk away with three points. Final score: Seattle 2-1 Orlando.


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