After six winless games in a row, the Sounders have to close the regular season Sunday night against the dreaded Galaxy. But Sounders are 8-0-2 when crowds are above 40,000.
MATCH: LA Galaxy (15-11-7, 52 points, 3rd, MLS West) at Seattle Sounders FC (15-12-6, 51 points, 4th, MLS West). TYPE: MLS. WHEN: Sunday, 6 p.m., CenturyLink Field. MEETING: 12th (Galaxy leads 5-3-3). TV: ESPN. RADIO: 97.3 KIRO FM; SPANISH: KOMO2 (Comcast Ch. 114) and La Gran D 99.3 FM.
Playoff qualifiers for five consecutive seasons, the Sounders will try to snap a franchise-record four-game losing streak when they host the LA Galaxy in a match expected to attract 66,000-plus. A win would secure a top-three seed in the Western Conference playoffs and avoid the dreaded knockout round, a one-match, win-or-go home affair next week.
If the Sounders secure a top-three seed, they will host Colorado or Real Salt Lake in the conference semifinals, likely Saturday since the Seahawks have a home game Sunday. If they draw with the Galaxy, they would finish fourth or fifth and play either the Galaxy or Rapids in the knockout round Wednesday or Thursday. If Seattle loses, it would finish fourth or fifth and play Colorado in the knockout round.
The playoff schedule will be determined immediately following Sunday’s match.
In addition to jousting for a favorable playoff seeding, the Sounders have an opportunity to post the best home record in franchise history. Seattle has 34 home points, one shy of the club mark last year.
The Sounders usually play well when they perform in front of crowds larger than 40,000 at CenturyLink. They are 8-0-2. But the Sounders have been unusually bad lately. During the four-match losing streak, the Sounders have been outscored 12-2 and held without a goal in the past two.
“It rests on my shoulders that we haven’t been able to come up with combinations that work for us,” said Sounders coach Sigi Schmid. “We’ve had some chances but haven’t been able to convert those chances. Guys are trying, they’re fighting and battling. The combinations on the field just haven’t been able to produce the goals that we wanted and needed at this point. The guys are obviously disappointed.”
Snapping out of the funk would be far easier if the Sounders didn’t have to play the Galaxy, which has a three-match winning streak and hasn’t allowed a goal in 308 minutes. LA is unbeaten against Seattle in the last three meetings, including a 1-1 draw Sept. 21.
“The first one (May 26, a 4-0 Seattle loss) they absolutely throttled us in the first half,” Schmid told soundersfc.com. “The second time we went down there, we got the tie. I thought we were a lot more competitive and combative in terms of our approach to that game. I think we learned that we’re capable of getting a result.”
The Galaxy, with 52 goals, is led by Irish international Robbie Keane, who ranks fourth in MLS with 15 goals and third with 11 assists. Keane notched a hat trick in LA’s 4-0 romp May 26. Landon Donovan has 10 goals and nine assists in 21 matches and midfielder Marvelo Srvas has four goals and seven assists. The Sounders will get one break Sunday: Juninho, who has three career goals against Seattle, won’t play due to yellow-card accumulation.
“They’re going to come to win,” Schmid added. “I expect that they’re going to come with their best team, strongest team. If they have somebody who’s carrying an injury, it’s a possibility they might hold off on that guy.”
Seattle will get back Osvaldo Alonso from a yellow-card suspension, but whether Obafemi Martins (groin), Djimi Traore (knee) and Eddie Johnson (sports hernia) will play will be game-time decisions. All trained during the week, but none were listed among Seattle’s probable starters. Schmid said Martins probably won’t play, preferring to get him healthy for the playoffs.
Johnson apparently patched up his differences with Schmid after Schmid threw him out of practice Wednesday following a Johnson rant, which Johnson described as “frustration” over lingering injuries. Schmid said Friday that the incident was “water under the bridge.”
According to the probables, 41-year-old Marcus Hahnemann will make his third consecutive start in goal. Michael Gspurning lost the job after allowing nine combined goals to Colorado and Vancouver, the first two losses in the streak.
SOUNDERS PROBABLE LINEUP: Goalkeeper — Marcus Hahnemann. Defenders — DeAndre Yedlin, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez. Midfielders — Mauro Rosales, Alex Caskey, Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso. Forwards — Clint Dempsey, Lamar Neagle.
GALAXY PROBABLE LINEUP: Goalkeeper — Jaime Penedo. Defenders — Greg Cochrane, Kofi Opare, Omar Gonzalez, Sean Franklin. Midfielders — Marcelo Sarvas, Pablo Mastroeni, Michael Stephens. Forwards — Gyasi Zardes, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane.
INJURIES: Seattle — Out, GK Josh Ford (right patella fracture). Questionable, MF Shalrie Joseph (right knee sprain); Eddie Johnson (sports hernia). Galaxy — Out, None. SUSPENSIONS: Seattle — None. Galaxy — Juninho. INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Seattle — None; Galaxy — None.
SERIES: Dates to May 10, 2009, a 1-1 tie in Seattle (Seattle goal by Sebastien Le Toux). In 10 regular-season meetings, LA has 15 goals to Seattle’s 11. The last match Sept. 21 was a 1-1 draw. Eddie Johnson scored Seattle’s goal. While the Galaxy lead the overall series 5-3-3, the Sounders are 2-2-1 at CenturyLink Field.
SOUNDERS STATS / NOTES
SOUNDERS MLS LEADERS
|Starts||Yedlin 28, Gspurning 27, Gonzalez 26|
|Goals||Johnson 9, Martins 8, Neagle 8|
|Assists||Rosales 8, Evans 5, Martins 4, Neagle 3|
|Shots||Neagle 60, Johnson 50, Martins 43|
|Shots On Goal||Johnson 27, Neagle 24, Martins 16|
|Fouls Caused||Neagle 52, Alonso 51, Gonzalez 38|
|Fouls Suffered||Rosales 43, Alonso 36, Johnson 35|
|Offsides||Johnson 37, Neagle 15, Evans 7|
|Corner Kicks||Rosales 98, Burch 23, Neagle 16|
|Cautions||Johnson 6, Traore 5, Joseph 5|
|Ejections||10 tied with 1 each, last Alonso|
COMING UP: Playoff foe and date to be determined following Sunday’s match.
Seattle Sounders FC 2013 Schedule / Results
(15-12-6, 51 points, MLS; 1-1-0 CCL; 0-1-0 U.S. Open Cup)
|3/6||*at Tigres||7:00||Fox Soccer||L||1-0||0-0-0|
|3/23||^at San Jose||7:30||KING 5||L||1-0||0-2-1|
|5/26||^at LA Galaxy||8:00||ESPN2||L||4-0||4-4-3|
|7/13||^at San Jose||7:30||KING||L||1-0||7-7-3|
|9/21||^at LA Galaxy||7:30||NBCSN||D||1-1||15-8-5|
|10/19||^at FC Dallas||1:00||NBCSN||L||2-0||15-12-6|
*=CONCACAF; ^=Major League Soccer; #=U.S. Open Cup