Rather than closing with a flourish, the Sounders regular season ended with a thud as they not only lost to 1-0 to the Galaxy Sunday night in Carson, CA., they may have not have Eddie Johnson for the start of the MLS playoffs at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at CenturyLink Field.
Johnson, Seattle’s leading scorer, left the game in the 43rd minute after apparently straining his left hamstring after a quick acceleration. There was no contact. Johnson grabbed the back of his leg, then dropped to the ground in obvious pain. He walked off on his own and was replaced by Sammy Ochoa. He was seen walking around on the sidelines during the game.
“There’s definitely something there,” Johnson told the Seattle Times. “If I had played, I’d have been restricted. The smart thing was for me to do what’s best for the team and come out.”
After the game, Johnson wrote on his Twitter account, “Appreciate all of your concerns and kind words. I can only pray that it’s not too bad. But we have a strong team with or without me.”
Also coming out with hamstring tightness was defender Jeff Parke, although it didn’t seem to be as serious as Johnson’s injury.
A win or draw would have allowed the Sounders, who finished 15-8-11, seventh-best in the MLS, to get the second game of home-and-home, aggregate-score series. But a loss left the Sounders with the third seed and Real Salt Lake at No. 2, with the advantage of playing the deciding second game at home.
Friday’s game will be televised by the NBC Sports Network. The second game will be at Rio Tinto Nov. 8 in Sandy, Utah, TV to be determined.
A year ago against the same opponent, RSL won at home 3-0, in what was probably Seattle’s worst game of the year. They won the second game at CenturyLink 3-2, but lost the series on total goals.
The only score Sunday came from reserve Mike Magee in the 83rd minute when he left-footed a short layoff from Robbie Keane past goalie Michael Gspurning. The defending MLS champion Galaxy, which finished the season on a 13-4-4 run, was already assured the No. 4 seed, but must have a play-in game against No. 5 Vancouver Thursday, with the winner advancing against No. 1 seed San Jose.
Sunday, both teams had numerous close calls and failed to capitalize. Galaxy goalie Josh Saunders had several key saves but was lucky to be in the game after a handball outside the box in the fourth minute. That normally is a red-card ejection, but Saunders stayed in the game with only a yellow card.
The Sounders, who beat the Galaxy 2-0 and 4-0 in the clubs’ first two meetings, finished with 56 points, the first time in their four-year MLS existence that they did not increase their point total from the previous season. The Sounders finished 2011 with 63 points.
Real Salt Lake had a slight edge over Seattle in regular season meetings, going 1-0-2, including a 1-0 win in May. The teams teams played two scoreless draws, including Oct. 17, with the asterisk that neither was at full strength after players were absent due to World Cup national-team commitments.