MATCH: Seattle Sounders FC (15-8-11, 56 points, 2nd, MLS West; 1-0-1 playoffs) at Los Angeles Galaxy (15-12-6, 51 points, 4th, MLS West; 1-1-0 playoffs). TYPE: MLS Cup playoff. WHEN: Sunday, 6 p.m., Home Depot Center, Carson, CA. MEETING: 14th (all competitions, Galaxy leads 6-5-2). LAST 10: Sounders 4-2-4; Galaxy 4-3-3. TV: KONG 6/16, ROOT Sports. RADIO: 97.3 KIRO FM; SPANISH: KOMO2 (Comcast Ch. 114) and La Gran D 99.3 FM.
Finally a playoff series winner for the first time after eliminating Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference semifinals, the Sounders face the Los Angeles Galaxy in a two-game aggregate series for the conference title. As the higher (No. 3) seed, Seattle will open Sunday on the road and play the second match Nov. 18 at CenturyLink Field.
The winner of the Sounders-Galaxy series will face the Eastern Conference champion (either Houston or D.C. United) Dec. 1 for the MLS Cup. The championship match will be played at the home of the club with the highest seed (Sounders fans should root for No. 5 seed Houston).
“We have never had this chance before,” forward Fredy Montero said after the Sounders eliminated Real Salt Lake. “We are very excited to play against the Galaxy. We are hungry to get to the final.”
The Sounders will have to get there without defender Marc Burch. Major League Soccer suspended Burch for three matches and fined him an undisclosed amount Saturday night for making a gay slur against a Real Salt Lake player in last Thursday’s game. Burch will have to sit out both games of the Galaxy series. If the Sounders advance to the MLS Cup final, Burch will have to sit out that match, as well. If the Sounders fail to advance, Burch will have to sit out the first match of the 2013 season.
The Burch issue aside, the Sounders have a tad more motivation against L.A. than usual. After the Galaxy clinched their two-leg series against San Jose Wednesday, the team issued a press release that mistakenly said L.A. would play Real Salt Lake in the Western finals — even though Seattle and Real Salt Lake didn’t play until Thursday.
“L.A. thought they were playing Salt Lake,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said after Thursday’s 1-0 victory. “We hate to disappoint them. That’s motivation enough for us right now.”
Seattle and Los Angeles met three times during the regular season, Seattle winning 2-0 May 2, 4-0 Aug. 5 and losing 1-0 Oct. 28 to close out its regular-season schedule.
Los Angeles is 12-3-4 since July 8 and has tallied 25 goals since Aug. 12, but the Sounders went undefeated in their last seven league matches until losing to the Galaxy at the Home Depot Center. The goal L.A. scored against Seattle Oct. 28 is one of only two the Sounders have yielded in their past seven matches.
“We’ve been playing good defense,” Schmid said. “We haven’t been giving up many goals.”
Three designated players, Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and David Beckham, lead the Galaxy, who are trying to become the MLS’s first repeat champion since Houston in 2006-07. The trio combined for 95 points (32 goals, 31 assists) during regular MLS play. Keane finished T3 in MLS with 16 goals and added eight assists, while Donovan finished second with 14 assists to go along with nine goals. Beckham has seven goals and nine assists, but has scored just once since July 18.
Midfielder Juninho, who scored two goals against Seattle, finished with seven goals and four assists in 32 games. Sean Franklin (32 starts), A.J. DeLaGarza (30), and Todd Dunivant have manned the back line, while Omar Gonzalez, the 2011 MLS Defender of the Year, has just 12 starts after suffering an ACL injury in January. However, the 24-year-old has started the last 12, helping the Galaxy to a 6-2-3 record over that span.
The Sounders are in the conference finals for the first time in franchise history.
Odds of Seattle advancing past the Galaxy are statistically favorable. There have been 40 home-and-home playoff series in league history, including four this year. The lower seed has advanced just 17 times. On the other other hand, three lower seeds — No. 5 Houston, No. 3 Seattle and No. 4 Los Angeles — advanced this year.
The Sounders have an additional incentive against the Galaxy. Since the Sounders finished with the seventh-best overall record in MLS, they must advance to the MLS Cup final in order to qualify for the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League.
SOUNDERS PROBABLE LINEUP: Goalkeeper — Michael Gspurning. Defenders — Adam Johansson, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Zach Scott. Midfielders — Mario Martinez, Christian Tiffert, Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso. Forwards — Fredy Montero, Eddie Johnson.
GALAXY PROBABLE LINEUPS: Goalkeeper — Josh Saunders. Defenders — Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, Tommy Meyer, Todd Dunivant. Midfielders — Landon Donovan, Juninho, David Beckham, Mike Magee. Forwards — Robbie Keane, Edson Buddle.
INJURIES (Sounders): Out — FW Babayele Sodale (ACL tear), DF Andrew Duran (ACL surgery). Questionable — DF Leo Gonzalez (hamstring strain), Patrick Ianni (calf strain), Mauro Rosales (hamstring).
LAST VS. L.A. GALAXY (Oct. 28): Reserve Mike Magee left-footed a short layoff from Robbie Keane in the 83rd minute past goalie Michael Gspurning to give Los Angeles a 1-0 victory. The defending MLS champion Galaxy finished the season on a 13-4-4 run. Just before halftime, Seattle lost Eddie Johnson with a hip-muscle injury.
SERIES: Dates to May 10, 2009, a 1-1 tie in Seattle (Seattle goal by Sebastien Le Toux). Sounders are 3-4-2 all-time against the Galaxy in regular-season play. In nine meetings, Seattle and L.A. are level in goals, 10-10. Seattle and Los Angeles have met several times outside of regular-season competition. The sides met in the first round of the 2010 MLS Cup playoffs, Seattle falling 3-1 over the two legs. Sides also met twice in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals with Seattle winning both, 2-0 in the 2010 and 3-1 in 2011.
SOUNDERS STATS / NOTES
- FINAL REGULAR-SEASON SUMMARY: Overall: 15-8-11. Last 5: D-W-D-W-L. Home: 11-4-2. Road: 4-4-0. Vs. East: 4-1-4. Vs. West: 11-7-7. March: 2-1-0; April: 2-0-1; May: 3-2-2; June: 0-2-2; July: 2-0-2; August: 3-1-0; September: 2-1-4; October: 2-1-1. Goals For: 51. Goals Against: 32. Differential: +19.
- FINAL MLS TEAM RANKS: Goals: 51 (5th). Goals Scored Avg.: 1.50 (5th). Goals Allowed Per Match: 0.97 (2nd). Shots: 439 (10th). Shots On Goal: 141 (13th). Fouls Committed: 442 (5th). Fouls Suffered: 438 (4th). Yellow Card Cautions: 53 (T10).
- Sounders went 8-0-1 when leading at the half, 7-3-9 when tied at the half and 0-5-1 when trailing at the half.
- Sounders went 14-0-3 when scoring first and 1-8-4 when conceding first.
- Sounders are one of three teams to qualify playoffs each of the past four seasons (also L.A. Galaxy and Real Salt Lake).
- Seattle is 1-1-1 at home in playoffs with two goals scored and one goal allowed.
- Sounders had their best home season in club history in 2012, finishing with two more wins than any other season (11-4-2). Seattle posted its best home goal differential this season (+16), scoring the second-most and allowing the second-fewest home regular season goals in club history.
- Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning had a league-leading 0.73 goals against average, the third best in MLS history in becoming the first keeper from outside of the CONCACAF region to lead the league in goals against average. Gspurning was ranked second in winning percentage (.690), third in shutout percentage (38.0) and second in saves percentage (76.6).
- Forward Eddie Johnson set the club record with 14 goals, and Fredy Montero established a career-high with 13 goals, to go along with eight assists.
- Mauro Rosales matched his club record from last season with 13 assists, and Osvaldo Alonso led the team with 2,688 minutes played.
- Alonso is the only Sounders player to play every minute of the club’s first seven playoff matches. Alonso played the most regular season minutes in club history (9,660), and is tied with Fredy Montero for the most regular season starts (109).
- Seattle had 25 wins across all competitions in 2012, more than any other club in MLS. Kansas City had 22 wins and San Jose 21.
- CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: With its 3-1 win over CD Marathon Oct. 24, the Sounders clinched the No. 3 seed in March’s quarterfinal round. The Sounders finished the group stage undefeated for the first time. The other undefeated teams are Monterrey and Santos Laguna. The Sounders play Mexican side Tigres UANL, seeded No. 6 in the two-leg series. The Sounders play the first game on the road between March 5-7 and host the second game between March 12-14.
SOUNDERS (MLS) LEADERS
(Final Regular Season)
|Starts||Alonso 30, Evans 29, Parke 29, Montero 28|
|Goals||Johnson 14, Montero 13, Estrada 5|
|Assists||Rosales 13, Montero 8, Caskey 4, Evans 4|
|Shots||Montero 126, Johnson 72, Alonso 41|
|Shots On Goal||Montero 46, Johnson 25, Evans 13, Alonso 13|
|Fouls Caused||Montero 63, Johnson 40, Alonso 37|
|Fouls Suffered||Montero 68, Alonso 52, Johnson 46|
|Offsides||Johnson 33, Montero 24, Estrada 6|
|Corner Kicks||Rosales 73, Tiffert 31, Fernandez 16|
|Cautions||Alonso 8, Johnson 6, Montero 5, Scott 5|
|Ejections||Hurtado, Fernandez, Montero, Scott, 1|
COACHES: Sigi Schmid became first head coach of Seattle Sounders FC Dec. 16, 2008, and is in his fourth year. Born in Tübingen, Germany, Schmid relocated with his family to the U.S. in 1956, and to Torrance, CA., in 1962. He was a four-year starter at UCLA (1972-75) and graduated with a B.S. degree in economics in 1976.
Schmid later earned a M.A. in business administration from Southern California. A certified public accountant, Schmid coached the Los Angeles Galaxy from 1999 through 2004, winning four major competitions: 2002 MLS Cup, 2002 MLS Supporters Shield, 2001 U.S. Open Cup and the 2001 CONCACAF Champions Cup. He coached the Columbus Crew from 2006-08, winning the MLS Cup in his final season.
In 2009, under Schmid’s direction, the Sounders became the first expansion team to reach the MLS playoffs since the 1998 Chicago Fire. The Sounders also won the U.S. Open Cup in Schmid’s first season. They added their second and third U.S. Open Cup titles in 2010 and 2011.
Bruce Arena: The reigning MLS Coach of the Yea and a three-time MLS Cup winner, Bruce Arena is in his fifth season. One of the most successful head coaches in MLS and U.S. National Team history, Arena led the Galaxy to their third MLS Cup last season, becoming the first coach in league history to win three championships.
The all-time leader in wins among coaches in U.S. MNT history, Arena led the U.S. to the FIFA World Cup twice, including an historic quarterfinal berth in 2002 in Japan/Korea. Arena briefly coached at the University of Puget Sound in 1976.
Seattle Sounders FC 2012 Schedule / Results
(15-8-11, 56 points, MLS; 4-0 CCL; 4-1 U.S. Open Cup; 1-0-1 MLS Cup)
|4/7||^at DC United||4:30||KING||D||0-0||2-1-1|
|5/9||^at FC Dallas||5:30||KONG||W||2-0||7-1-1|
|6/26||&at San Jose||7:30||Webcast||W||1-0||3-0-0|
|6/30||^at New England||4:30||KONG||D||2-2||7-5-5|
|7/15||^at New York||1:00||ESPN||D||2-2||8-5-7|
|8/5||^vs. LA Galaxy||6:00||ESPN2||W||4-0||10-5-7|
|8/8||&at Sport KC||6:00||GolTV||L||2-1||4-1|
|8/11||^at San Jose||7:30||KONG||L||2-1||10-6-7|
|9/2||^at FC Dallas||4:00||KING||D||1-1||12-6-8|
|10/21||^vs. FC Dallas||6:00||ESPN||W||3-1||15-7-11|
|10/28||^at LA Galaxy||6:00||ESPN||L||1-0||15-8-11|
|11/11||%at LA Galaxy||6:00||ESPN||—||—||—|
|11/18||%vs. LA Galaxy||6:00||ESPN||—||—||—|
*=CONCACAF; ^=Major League Soccer; #=International friendly; &=U.S. Open Cup; %=MLS Cup Playoff
Sounders All-Time Playoff Results
|Year||Date||Site||W/L/D||Result (Sea. Goals)|
|2009||Oct. 29||Seattle||D||Sounders 0, Houston 0 (none)|
|Nov. 8||Houston||L||Houston 1, Sounders 0, OT (none)|
|2010||Oct. 31||Seattle||L||L.A. 1, Sounders 0 (none)|
|Nov. 7||Carson, CA||L||L.A. 2, Sounders 1 (Zakuani)|
|2011||Oct. 29||Sandy, UT||L||RSL 3, Sounders 0 (none)|
|Nov. 2||Seattle||W||Sounders 2, RSL 0 (Alonso, Neagle)|
|2012||Nov. 2||Seattle||D||Sounders 0, RSL 0|
|Nov. 8||Sandy, UT||W||Sounders 1, RSL 0|
|Nov. 11||Los Angeles||—||——————|