Sounders' final games offer chance for easier roads in playoffs

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SEATTLE — Playoff fever is growing in Seattle.

In the Sounders FC locker room following Sunday’s 3-1 win over FC Dallas that clinched a top-three seed in the Western Conference, it was clear that players and coaches were already getting mentally prepared for an upcoming playoff series with Real Salt Lake.

“I think we’re hungry, more than anything,” said midfielder Brad Evans. “We are not overconfident, but I know the players we have, and I am confident with what we can do.”

Added assistant coach Brian Schmetzer: “This team is good enough that if we play up to our potential, and we worry about ourselves, we have a chance to beat anybody in this league.”

But first, there are two games to play before the postseason arrives.

And while Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League group game and Sunday’s MLS regular-season finale mostly just have seeding implications, that doesn’t make them meaningless.

A home win Wednesday over CD Marathon of Honduras would give the Sounders a 4-0 record in Group 4 and ensure that Seattle would avoid some of the region’s top powers in the quarterfinal round. In this year’s CCL format, the eight group winners are ranked and matched up according to performance in the group stage.

“Obviously there are some guys we’d like to avoid,” said coach Sigi Schmid, alluding to top Mexican teams Santos Laguna, which eliminated the Sounders in the 2011-12 CCL quarterfinals in March, and CF Monterrey.

In MLS play, a road win Sunday against the Los Angeles Galaxy would all but lock up the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed in the playoffs.

Finishing with 59 points could also mean a top-three finish overall in MLS, which would give Seattle a better chance of hosting MLS Cup and also a bigger likelihood of qualifying for the 2013-14 CCL.

Evans wins MLS Player of the Week

Evans’ two-goal performance Sunday earned him the first MLS Player of the Week award of his six-year career, the league announced Monday. The 27-year-old midfielder also played two defensive positions in Wednesday’s 0-0 tie with Real Salt Lake.

“Nobody else in the league scored two goals, so I think it was automatic,” joked Evans, who deflected credit to the team.

“Sometimes people underappreciate Brad,” Schmid said. “So it’s nice to see a player like that get the recognition, because he’s not the only player in the league like that.”

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