Playing their worst game at the worst time, a 3-0 loss at Salt Lake Saturday, the Sounders face a nearly impossible task Wednesday — a four-goal margin of victory — to assure advancing in the playoffs.
Unless a postseason miracle is in the offing at CenturyLink Field Wednesday night when the Seattle Sounders host Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against Real Salt Lake, Kasey Keller’s farewell from soccer is going to be a sour one.
Based on the aggregate-goal format of this round of the playoffs, the Sounders require an almost-diabolical four-goal margin of victory in order to advance to the Western Conference finals.
A three-goal margin of victory after 90 minutes would send the match into extra time. Then, if needed, a penalty-kick shootout would ensue. But first, Seattle has to win in regulation by three.
The Sounders find themselves in this unforeseen (based 10 wins between Aug. 16 and Oct. 4 that included the franchise’s third consecutive U.S. Open Cup title) and dire predicament after having lost Game 1 to Real Salt Lake 3-0 in Salt Lake City Saturday night. The irksome part of the whitewash, according to Keller, who is retiring after a 22-year career in professional soccer, was Seattle’s lack of effort and toughness.
“We didn’t even come in for the fight,” Keller complained to the Seattle Times. “Why this happened in a playoff game, I have no idea. I fully understand you’re having a bad day passing the ball, you’re having a bad day and can’t just seem to make things click on offensive side, but you can always run hard and tackle.”
Keller added, “When another team steps it up a gear in the playoffs and you almost step it down, that’s hard to fathom.”
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid delivered a gloomier assessment, saying, “Were lucky we didnt lose 6-0 (the Sounders have never won a game by a margin of larger than four goals). We were well-served by losing only 3-0. We did not play well and I thought Real Salt Lake played very well. It was a bad time for us to choose to have a bad game, and obviously they had a really good game. Hats off to them.
Bad? The Sounders not only didn’t score, they didn’t have a shot on goal for the first time in 77 league and postseason matches, dating to Aug. 20, 2009, in a home odor-inducer against New England.
So nohat-doffing allowed when it concerns the Sounders in the postseason. In its three-year existence, Seattle has yet to win a Major Soccer League playoff game, going 0-4-1. Equally unfathomable, the Sounders have tallied just one goal in those five postseason matches.
All of this translates into the fact that the Sounders are rapidly devolving into one of the worst postseason teams in Seattle pro sports history (on the other hand, at least the Sounders reach the postseason, an almost unattainable feat for most Seattle franchises).
Sounders players, especially Keller, recognize how daunting the task is, but they believe that it’s achievable, owing to the fact that they will be playing at CenturyLink in front of 35,000+-Rave Green fanatics, that they have a score to settle with Real Salt Lake, and that their season and Keller’s career is at stake, all high motivators.
Speaking at Starfire Sports Complex earlier this week, Keller said, “We’re all disappointed with the mountain we have to climb. But it’s definitely a climbable mountain, as opposed to something that’s just insurmountable.”
With the Sounders needing three goals to stay alive and four to eliminate Real Salt Lake, it’s instructive to examine Seattle’s history of multi-goal wins. In their three years of existence, which includes all competitions, the Sounders have won by a margin of three or more goals just nine times in 143 matches (6.3 percent).
The Sounders won one game by a four-goal margin this season, Aug. 27 against the Columbus Crew. They also have won by three goals three times this season, most recently against D.C. United Sept. 17. Seattle wins in the past three seasons by three or more goals:
|2010||9/18||Columbus||W 4-0||+4||Nkufo 3, Sturgis|
|2011||8/27||Columbus||W 6-2||+4||Neagle 3, Rosales, Fucito|
|2009||3/19||NY Red Bulls||W 3-0||+3||Montero 2, Evans|
|2009||4/28||Salt Lake||W 3-0||+3||Le Toux 2, Nyassi, King|
|2009||6/28||Colorado||W 3-0||+3||Jacqua 2, Montero|
|2010||6/5||New England||W 3-0||+3||Gonzalez, Zakuani, Montero|
|2011||4/30||Toronto||W 3-0||+3||Evans 2, Fernandez|
|2011||8/16||Communicaciones||W 4-1||+3||Fucito 2, Evans, Gomez|
|2011||9/17||D.C. United||W 3-0||+3||Fernandez 2, Fucito|
NOTES: Midfielder Mauro Rosales, the Sounders’ leader in assists, could play, but it’s doubtful. Rosales continues to rehab a sprained right knee. “I still think it’s more of an outside shot (that Rosales will play Wednesday night), but at least it’s a shot,” Schmid said.