Already assured of a Western Conference playoff spot, the Seattle Sounders now are playing to secure the conference regular-season title.
They will face the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night in Texas, knowing a win or draw against the struggling Dynamo will lock Seattle into a guaranteed top-four seed in the postseason.
The Sounders (17-5-6, 57 points) also can get there with help from other teams if they lose Saturday, but the way they have played all season, it's hard to imagine that happening. Seattle is actually better playing away than at home, with a 9-2-2 mark on the road this season.
Plus, high-scoring forward Jordan Morris looks close to returning to the club. Morris has not played in a league match since he tore an ACL in February while on loan to Britain's Swansea City. He has ramped up his activities and was awaiting medical clearance from the doctors about playing in Houston.
"He's going to meet us down there (in Houston) and he's a tough kid. And if the doctors (clear him), who knows?" Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said. Morris also has been a major contributor to the U.S. national team in the past.
Of course, the Sounders have been just fine without Morris and have won their past four matches by a combined score of 12-3. Including playoffs, the Sounders have won eight straight matches against Houston.
The Dynamo (5-12-12, 27 points) are 11 points out of a playoff spot with five games left in their season. Houston has a three-game unbeaten streak at home and last played at Sporting Kansas City on Oct. 3, a 4-2 loss.
The Sounders have given up 23 goals in 2021, the fewest in MLS.
Houston head coach Tab Ramos said he switched back to a 4-3-3 formation during the Sporting KC game.
"The problem for us throughout the season is we can't win the games that we're supposed to win," Ramos said. "It's sometimes hard to explain why we make the mistakes that we make."
--Field Level Media