Still basking in Seattle’s 2-0 win Wednesday night over Colorado, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid offered a joke Thursday on a teleconference that was funny only because his club managed to avoid falling in the loser-out round of the 2013 MLS playoffs.
“First off, I want to apologize for being a little late,” he said in a teleconference. “I came to work dressed as a soccer coach as my costume, trying to fool people.”
During a six-week span in which they went without a victory, the Sounders were ghosts of their former selves. They fell from first to fourth in the Western Conference table, setting up last night’s drama with a backdrop of questions about whether Schmid’s tenure as the Sounders’ only MLS coach would continue.
They advance to the Western Conference semifinals Saturday against the Timbers (7 p.m., NBC Sports) at CenturyLink Field, the lingering effect of Wednesday night’s strangest play still prevalent.
Goalie Michael Gspurning will be forced to sit out the first leg of the two-game, home-and-home series after making a baffling tactical error, misjudging a goalward ball so thoroughly late in Saturday’s win that he handled it outside the box.
The infraction earned Seattle’s goalkeeper a red card and automatic ejection and a one-game suspension.
“It was a strange play,” Schmid said. “I think if Michael would have been a little more sideways, I think he would have seen that there would have been no player there that was going to get the ball. He probably could have just let the ball go over his head.
“I think the referee thought it was going to go over his head and go into the goal. I didn’t think the ball had that kind of momentum. It wasn’t going to go into the goal, not in my opinion. I thought the red card was a little harsh. I thought it maybe should have been a yellow.”
Since it wasn’t, Schmid is forced to turn to 41-year-old back-up goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, a former Seattle Pacific University star who 20 years later, bald and stocky, looks like he moonlights as a bouncer. Hahnemann played against the Timbers earlier in the month in a 1-0 Sounders defeat. With more than 300 Premier League games to his credit and two U.S. National Team appearances, Hahnemann has overcome greater challenges in a career that’s spanned two decades.
However, the last time he started an MLS playoff match (1998), teammate DeAndre Yedlin was in elementary school.
Nonetheless, Schmid expressed confidence because Hahnemann played in lieu of Gspurning late in the season.
“It’s obviously good that Marcus has gotten a couple of games in,” Schmid said. “He’s an experienced, quality goalkeeper. We couldn’t ask for a better person to step in and play.”
It isn’t clear if defender DeAndre Yedlin will join him on a Seattle back line that had an up-and-down regular season. Wednesday before halftime, the O’Dea High School graduate sprained his ankle when he collided with an opponent and didn’t return to the match. If he can’t play this weekend, the Sounders hope to have him back by Nov. 7., when they travel to Portland for the second leg of the aggregate goal series against their MLS rival.
Saturday will be Seattle’s third match in seven days.
“It’s a mind-over-matter thing,” Schmid said. “Sometimes you get into a playing rhythm and guys feel comfortable with that. They’d rather play than train anyway. It’s just something that we have to deal with.”