More than two-thirds through its first MLS season, Seattle Sounders FC has faced every other team in the league except one.
The Sounders will complete the set tonight when the New England Revolution visits Qwest Field for the first time.
And while the Sounders haven’t yet lined up against the Revs, coach Sigi Schmid is a longtime admirer.
“When I was in Columbus, the thing I always used to bring up is that we wanted to mold ourselves a little bit in that image, in terms of building a nucleus,” Schmid said this week. “That’s the same thing that we are trying to do here, is build a nucleus of players. I think that is the reason why that team has had success. New England’s success is built around that nucleus of (Steve) Ralston, Shalrie Joseph, Jay Heaps, Matt Reis, and (Taylor) Twellman.”
The Revolution is a charter MLS franchise, created along with the league in 1996.
Since then, the club has advanced to four MLS Cups: 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007. Only D.C. United and Los Angeles have been to more, and no club has been to more in this decade. However, the Revs have lost each of those championship games, causing Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller to liken them to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.
This season, the Revolution stands even at 6-6-6. That leaves them six points out of playoff position, however they have played fewer games than any of the four Eastern Division teams ahead of them. Now an opportunity to close ground is upon them as they play two games over the next four days, following tonight’s match with a Sunday home game against Real Salt Lake.
“We have to go and do our job (tonight),” coach Steve Nicol said through a Revs press release. “Playing two games quickly is not ideal, but first and foremost we have to concentrate on what we’ve got to do (tonight).”
The Sounders also face two games in four days, following this match with a Sunday visit to Houston.
Seattle hopes to build on its 2-0 win at Los Angeles on Saturday. That game not only improved the Sounders’ playoff prospects, but also their entire outlook after back-to-back losses in their previous two league games.
“I know it’s still a little bit early to be looking at tables, but it’s better seeing yourself in second rather than fourth,” Keller said. “Anytime you win a game – it doesn’t matter whether you go home after five-a-side or a league game – it’s always going to feel better if you win.”
Early or not, Keller admitted that the Sounders are paying increasing attention to the league standings and playoff positioning. And with five of their final eight games on the road after tonight, they understand the urgency of adding a full three points at home.
“The parity in this league is great and you always know you have to be looking over your shoulder because anybody can beat anybody,” he said. “It’s not like you can say, ‘OK, they’re playing Barcelona today so chances are we’re safe there. They’re not going to jump ahead of us.’ Here, it doesn’t matter. We have to make sure we take advantage of our last round of home games. We don’t have many left.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808
SOUNDERS FC GAMEDAY
NEW ENGLAND (6-6-6; 24 pts.) AT SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (8-5-8; 32)
Kickoff: 7 p.m., Qwest Field.
TV: ESPN2. Radio: 97.3-FM (in Spanish on 1210-AM).
Head-to-head: First meeting. Sounders visit New England on Sept. 26.
Team leaders: For New England - G 6 Steve Ralston; A 6 Shalrie Joseph; S 27 Kheli Dube; SOG 10 Ralston. For Seattle - G 10 Fredy Montero; A 7 Nate Jaqua; S 64 Montero; SOG 23 Montero.
Coach Sigi Schmid scouting report: “Their season has been up and down because they have had a number of injuries. They are a good team. They have a lot of fight. They know how to win. And, they are a team that is going to be tough.”
Notes: New England is the only MLS team the Sounders haven’t faced. … The Revs are 7-7-3 all-time against first-year MLS clubs and 6-2-3 since 2005. … Seattle is 6-1-4 at home, and New England is 2-4-3 on the road. However, the Revs are 2-2-0 on the road against Western Conference opponents, including a 1-0 win at league-leading Houston. … The Revolution will be without Taylor Twellman (concussion) and Chris Albright (meniscus tear). Jay Heaps (hamstring) is listed as probable. New England coach Steve Nicol also will miss the game because of a league suspension for misconduct during an Aug. 1 game against Toronto. … For Seattle, Freddie Ljungberg (disorientation), Tyrone Marshall (red-card suspension), Stephen King (hamstring) and Terry Boss (concussion) are out. Ben Dragavon has been selected from the MLS goalkeeper pool for this game. … Seattle’s Sanna Nyassi and New England’s Sainey Nyassi are twins. … Montero is tied for second in MLS goals scored. … The game is sold out. … Volunteers will collect school supplies and cash donations at the stadium gates, with the donations going to children in need.
Next: 5:30 p.m. Sunday, at Houston, Robertson Stadium; KONG 6/16.
Don Ruiz, The News Tribune