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Originally published Tuesday, September 25, 2012 at 8:49 PM

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Sounders finally get a chance to reenergize

The Sounders, who have five MLS games remaining, went 4-1 to close out the past two seasons and 3-1-1 in 2009. They'll need another strong finish to ensure a good seed in the playoffs.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Saturday

Sounders @ Vancouver,

6 p.m.

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TUKWILA — Practice time.

It seems like a given for a professional sports team, but not in recent weeks for busy Sounders FC.

Seattle has played 17 games, including the MLS Reserve League, since the start of August. Couple that with some international travel and off days for rest, and that leaves little time for the training field.

But relief has finally arrived as the Sounders have just two games in the next three weeks — a reprieve that will greatly help preparation for the playoffs.

"I think we can really get some things accomplished and established in terms of how we want to play, and work on things we still we need to sharpen up going into the playoffs," said coach Sigi Schmid.

Just five games remain in Seattle's regular season, and at 13-7-9 the team has all but clinched a fourth straight playoff berth and sits in fourth place in the Western Conference. The conference's No. 1 seed is seemingly out of reach — the Sounders are 12 points behind first-place San Jose — so the primary objective the rest of the way will be earning a first-round bye with a No. 2 or No. 3 seed.

With Los Angeles and Real Salt Lake as worthy competition, Seattle will need another strong finish to the year. The Sounders' trend has been just that, having gone 4-1 to close out the past two seasons and 3-1-1 in 2009.

A late run will start against a pair of rivals; Seattle travels to Vancouver on Saturday before hosting Portland on Oct. 7.

"It's Cascadia Cup time," Schmid said.

No friendly in 2013 season-ticket packages

For the first time in team history, an international friendly won't be a part of season-ticket packages in 2013. Instead, they will consist only of Seattle's 17 regular-season games.

"We've obviously done a bunch of friendlies over the years," said general manager Adrian Hanauer. "They've gone really well, we enjoy doing them, but at the same time, we've listened to our fans. It's of course mixed, but some of the feedback is, 'We're way more interested in competitive games than exhibitions.' ... It doesn't mean we won't do a friendly — it's still possible — but we would sell it as a one-off."

Hanauer said this move will give the team a stronger negotiating platform with potential friendly opponents. Issues can include the playing surface, date, kickoff time, ticketing and sponsors.

"If we get pushed into a corner to accept certain terms from a big club in Europe that thinks they can dictate terms, we can say, 'Thanks but no thanks,' because we won't be forced to do a game," Hanauer said.

Seattle hosted top English club Chelsea FC this summer in front of 53,309, but the attendance was lower than league games against Vancouver, Los Angeles and what's expected against Portland.

NOTES

• As promised in Year 1, Sounders FC will soon hold a vote to retain or remove Hanauer. Season-ticket holders and Alliance members are invited to participate from Oct. 7 to Dec. 7. There must be 10,000 ballots cast for the vote to be valid and the result will be announced at a Dec. 13 business meeting. More information is available at SoundersFCvote.com.

• Defender Patrick Ianni (adductor) is listed as questionable on the midweek injury report and trained off to the side during Monday's practice. Midfielders Mauro Rosales (quad) and Christian Tiffert (ankle) are listed as probable and look ready to go this weekend.

• Schmid said he has had talks recently with U.S. men's national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann regarding forward Eddie Johnson. The conversations, according to Schmid, centered more on the next round of FIFA World Cup qualifying in February and not upcoming games in October.

Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or jmayers@seattletimes.com

On Twitter: @joshuamayers

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