MATCH: Los Angeles Galaxy (15-12-6, 51 points, 4th, MLS West; 2-1-0 playoffs) at Seattle Sounders FC (15-8-11, 56 points, 2nd, MLS West; 1-1-1 playoffs). TYPE: MLS Cup playoff. WHEN: Sunday, 6 p.m., CenturyLink Field. MEETING: 15th (all competitions, Galaxy leads 7-5-2). LAST 10: Sounders 4-2-4; Galaxy 4-3-3. TV: ESPN. RADIO: 97.3 KIRO FM; SPANISH: KOMO2 (Comcast Ch. 114) and La Gran D 99.3 FM.
After a 3-0 deficit on aggregate Sunday, the Sounders face a monumental challenge Sunday night at CenturyLink Field. They need a four-goal margin of victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy to advance to the MLS Cup. If Seattle outscores the Galaxy by three and the teams are tied at the end of regulation, 30 minutes of extra time will follow and, if necessary, penalty kicks.
If the Sounders pull off the sporting miracle, they will advance to face the Eastern Conference champion (either Houston or D.C. United) Dec. 1 for the MLS title. The championship match will be played at the home of the club with the highest seed.
The Sounders can take three positive thoughts into the match. First, they already defeated the Galaxy 4-0 this season (Aug. 5 at the Clink), they posted the best home record in franchise history this season (11-4-2), and they should have assist leader Mauro Rosales back in the lineup, although Rosales is listed as questionable (hamstring) for the match.
Finally, the Galaxy allowed 47 goals this season and Seattle scored three or more five times in MLS play and seven more times in U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF competitions.
Conversely, Seattle is just 2-2-1 all-time against the Galaxy at CenturyLink with just a one-plus goal differential. Then there is this sobering fact: Since MLS instituted the aggregate-goal format in 2003, the team losing the first leg has rallied to win only 11 times.
But no team has rallied from a 3-0 first-leg deficit. In fact, only two clubs, San Jose in 2003 and Kansas City in 2004, rallied from a 2-0 first-leg deficit.
The 2003 Earthquakes pulled off the greatest comeback in MLS history. After losing to the Galaxy 2-0 in the first leg, the Earthquakes fell behind 2-0, or 4-0 on aggregate, in the second leg. San Jose tied the score at 4 in the 90th minute and won 5-4 in extra time.
For the Sounders to have any chance, they need to get Fredy Montero going. The club’s all-time leading scorer, Montero has never tallied a playoff goal in 756 minutes of action dating to 2009. This year, Montero has managed just two shots in three playoff games, perhaps one reason Montero is not listed among the match’s probable starters (Mario Martinez is listed instead).
This week, head coach Sigi Schmid was asked if Montero’s playoff drought has gotten inside the Colombian’s head.
“Hopefully not,” Schmid said. “He’s pretty good that way, but I’m sure at some point you start thinking about it.”
Schmid made reference this week to the quality and experience of the Galaxy’s three designated players, Robbie Keane (two goals and an assist last Sunday), Landon Donovan and David Beckham vs. the quality and experience of Seattle’s.
“You’re talking about guys who have 100 caps, each of them,” Schmid said of the Galaxy trio. “You’re talking about guys who have played in World Cups. You’re talking about guys who played in European Champions League games and things like that. There’s a quality they’ve been able to express onto the team. For us right now, we’re still searching a little more for that. I don’t think we’re that far away.”
As it stands now, the Sounders are at least four goals away.
SOUNDERS PROBABLE LINEUP: Goalkeeper — Michael Gspurning. Defenders — Adam Johansson, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Zach Scott. Midfielders — Mauro Rosales, Christian Tiffert, Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso. Forwards — Mario Martinez, Eddie Johnson.
GALAXY PROBABLE LINEUPS: Goalkeeper — Josh Saunders. Defenders — Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, Tommy Meyer, Todd Dunivant. Midfielders — Juninho, David Beckham, Mike Magee, Christian Wilhelmsson. Forwards — Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan.
INJURIES (Sounders): Out — FW Babayele Sodale (ACL tear), DF Andrew Duran (ACL surgery). Questionable — MF Mauro Rosales (hamstring), DF Leo Gonzalez (hamstring), DF Patrick Ianni (calf strain).
LAST VS. L.A. GALAXY (Nov. 11): Robbie Keane had two goals and an assist as the Galaxy smoked the Sounders 3-0 in the first leg of the Western Conference finals at the Home Depot Center. Keane put the Galaxy on the board in first-half stoppage time. It marked the first goal surrendered by Gspurning after a 225-minute shutout streak to start the playoffs. The Galaxy doubled their lead in the 64th minute when Keane fed a wide open Sean Franklin up the right side. Three minutes later, a Landon Donovan shot was deflected into the box. After Gspurning blocked the initial attempt, Keane chased it down and tapped it in.
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, 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.
- Sounders have not lost consecutive MLS games in 66 outings (33-13-20), the longest stretch in league history.
- Gspurning is a finalist for Goalkeeper of the Year and Newcomer of the Year, and Johnson is a finalist for Comeback Player of the Year. The awards will be announced Nov. 27 and Nov. 28.
- 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.
COMING UP: With a victory Sunday, the Sounders will advance to the MLS Cup Dec. 1. If the Sounders lose, their season is over.
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||L||3-0||1-1-1|
|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||L||Galaxy 3, Sounders 1|