MATCH: New York Red Bulls (15-9-6, 51 points, 1st, MLS East) at Seattle Sounders FC (15-8-5, 50 points, 1st, MLS West). TYPE: MLS. WHEN: Sunday, 6 p.m, CenturyLink Field. MEETING: 8th (Sounders lead 3-2-2). TV: ESPN. RADIO: 97.3 KIRO FM; SPANISH: KOMO2 (Comcast Ch. 114) and La Gran D 99.3 FM.
In a meeting of best in the East vs. best in the West, the Sounders can become the first team to clinch a berth in the MLS Cup playoffs, as well as re-take sole possession of the Supporters’ Shield race, when they host the New York Red Bulls at CenturyLink Field Sunday night. The Sounders, with a league-best six-game (5-0-1) unbeaten streak, lead MLS West with 50 points while the Red Bulls top MLS East with 51.
New York has surged in recent weeks, winning its past four matches to ascend to first overall in MLS. Led by first-year head coach Mike Petke and international stars Thierry Henry (who probably won’t play Sunday) and Tim Cahill, the Red Bulls took the lead in the Supporters’ Shield standings Sunday with a win against FC Dallas.
A draw Sunday would put Seattle, which has two games in hand on the Red Bulls, no lower than second and a loss could drop Seattle no lower than fourth overall.
“I think our team will be ready. It’s something that we are looking forward to,” Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid said this week. “We’re in a position now where we can see that there is a shot for us to finish as the number one team This game is very important in that regard.”
“I like big games. These are what you live for,” forward Eddie Johnson told soundersfc.com. “This is where players show their worth. It’s a big occasion and a chance to show who is going to go out there and put it on the line and be consistent and take this team in the direction they want to go.”
While neither club features a top-10 goal scorer, both are loaded with shotmakers, Seattle attacking with Johnson, Obafemi Martins and Lamar Neagle, each of whom have eight goals, while New York is led by Henry (nine goals), Cahill (8) and Fabian Espindola (8).
According to multiple reports, New York might elect to sit Henry (Achilles tendon) and Jamison Olave and avoid the risk that the pair will aggravate injuries playing on the CenturyLink turf. Both have avoided turf matches this season and the one with Seattle might not be any different despite the stakes.
“He just doesn’t like turf,” Petke said of Henry in a conference call earlier this week. “He has a chronic issue with his Achilles, and if I’m being told by the doctors that it could be damaged, I have to listen. It’s a huge game, but you have to go with what the doctors say.”
Sounders’ medics have concerns of their own over the status of Johnson and Clint Dempsey. Johnson left practice last week with a shoulder injury — he’s listed as a probable starter for Saturday — and Dempsey is nursing a hamstring. Dempsey did not play against the Galaxy last week and, according to Schmid, will be a game-time decision.
“Obviously, it’s something that, either from the wear and tear of the national team, playing those games in rapid succession, maybe coming back and taking a wrong step at training, it’s hard to tell,” Schmid said in reference to Dempsey’s hamstring.
The loss of injured players on both sides would reduce the marquee appeal of the matchup. While Johnson is listed as probable, Dempsey is not.
During Seattle’s run of six consecutive wins at CenturyLink Field, the Sounders have outscored their opponents 26-9 and posted seven shutouts. Neagle is particularly effective on Seattle sod, where he has recorded all eight of his goals. Martins has tallied six of his eight at home and Johnson five of eight.
“We’re happy to play at home and we’re excited to play in front of our fans,” Schmid said. “Their will, their noise, their desire, their power that they exert during the game certainly helps us.”
SOUNDERS PROBABLE LINEUP: Goalkeeper — Michael Gspurning. Defenders — DeAndre Yedlin, Djimi Traore, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez. Midfielders — Osvaldo Alonso, Mauro Rosales, Andy Rose, Lamar Neagle. Forwards — Obafemi Martins, Eddie Johnson.
RED BULLS PROBABLE LINEUP: Goalkeeper — Luis Robles. Defenders — David Carney, Markus Holgersson, Ibrahim Sekagya, Kosuke Kimura. Midfielders — Jonny Steele, Tim Cahill, Dax McCarty, Eric Alexander. Forwards — Fabian Espindola, Peguy Luyindula.
INJURIES: Seattle — Out, GK Josh Ford (right patella fracture). Questionable, MF MF Clint Dempsey (hamstring), GK Marcus Hahnemann (right knee), MF Shalrie Joseph (right knee sprain). Red Bulls — Out, MF Ian Christianson (right foot surgery). SUSPENSIONS: Seattle — Zach Scott. Red Bulls — None. INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Seattle — None; Red Bulls — None.
SERIES: Dates to March 19, 2009, when the Sounders, in their inaugural MLS match, defeated the Red Bulls 3-0 in Seattle. The Sounders hold a 3-2-2 advantage in the seven matches played. The clubs last met July 15, 2012 and drew 2-2, Seattle pulling even in the second half on a goal by Fredy Montero.
SOUNDERS STATS / NOTES
- REGULAR-SEASON SUMMARY (MLS): Overall: 15-8-5. Last 5: W-W-W-W-D. Home: 10-1-3. Road: 5-7-2. Vs. East: 5-2-1. Vs. West: 10-6-4. March: 0-3-1; April: 1-0-1; May: 3-1-1; June: 2-1-0; July: 2-2-1; August: 4-1-0; September: 3-0-1; October: 0-0-0. Goals For: 38. Goals Against: 28. Differential: +10.
- MLS TEAM STATS: Goals: 38. Goals Scored Avg.: 1.36. Goals Allowed Per Match: 1.00. Shots: 323. Shots On Goal: 105. Fouls Committed: 367. Fouls Suffered: 354. Yellow Card Cautions: 39.
- 10-0-2 when leading at the half, 4-1-3 when tied at the half, 1-7-0 when trailing at the half.
- 13-0-3 when scoring first, 2-8-1 when conceding first.
Sounders have posted a 0.33 goals against average over their six-game unbeaten run.
Seattle holds the top spot in the Western Conference and is second overall in the Supporters’ Shield race.
Scored in 11 consecutive games, matching the club record for longest scoring streak.
A club-record 13-game home unbeaten streak, second-longest in MLS this season.
Mauro Rosales’ 34 career assists is tied with Fredy Montero for the club record.
Seattle’s average attendance is 43,180, besting last year’s top mark of 43,144. Sounders have three home games remaining, and will open the entire stadium for the LA Galaxy match Oct. 27.
SOUNDERS MLS LEADERS
|Starts||Gonzalez 25, Yedlin 24, Gspurning 24|
|Goals||Martins, Neagle, Johnson 8, Evans 5|
|Assists||Rosales 8, Evans 5, Martins 4, Neagle 3|
|Shots||Neagle 50, Johnson 42, Martins 38|
|Shots On Goal||Johnson 20, Neagle 20, Martins 16|
|Fouls Caused||Alonso 44, Neagle 41, Gonzalez 33|
|Fouls Suffered||Rosales 36, Johnson 32, Alonso 32|
|Offsides||Johnson 34, Neagle 11, Evans 7|
|Corner Kicks||Rosales 81, Burch 21, Neagle 16|
|Cautions||Johnson 6, Traore 5, Hurtado 4, Gonzalez 4|
|Ejections||8 tied with 1 each|
COMING UP: Sounders play at Colorado Oct. 5 and at CenturyLink Oct. 9 vs. Vancouver.
Seattle Sounders FC 2013 Schedule / Results
(15-8-5, 49 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||—||—||—|
*=CONCACAF; ^=Major League Soccer; #=U.S. Open Cup