With Seattle Sounders FC focused intently on its playoff drive, one team accomplishment recently passed almost unnoticed while an individual achievement quietly moved within reach this week.
When the Sounders defeated Columbus, 1-0, in their most recent match, they moved to 10-7-11 for the season. With only two regular season games remaining, that assures Seattle of being the second Major League Soccer expansion team to notch a winning record in its first season – Chicago did it first in 1998.
“I think people forget how tough it is to be an expansion team,” coach Sigi Schmid said Tuesday. “From Day One, because we started off well, I don’t think we’ve ever really been viewed as an expansion team. What Chicago did in ’98 was tremendous, and nothing to be taken away from that. But it also was at a stage where the league was only 2 years old, and so you’re not catching up a lot.”
Chicago not only had a winning record in its expansion season, but also won the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup. However, other MLS expansion teams have had to pay some dues. Chivas USA topped .500 and made the playoffs in its second season. Miami and Real Salt Lake achieved winning records in their fourth seasons. Toronto (three years) and San Jose (two years after hiatus) are still trying.
“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far as an expansion team – winning the Open Cup, establishing a winning record, being in the playoff hunt,” Schmid said. “Because all the expansion teams since Chicago, with the exception of Miami, nobody has even been in the playoff hunt at this late stage. Our goal is obviously to make the playoffs.”
The Sounders could accomplish that as early as Saturday, when a win at Kansas City would punch their ticket.
And if that happens, it also would mark Schmid’s 124th MLS coaching victory, drawing him even with current career leader Bob Bradley.
“It just means I’ve been around for a while, and I’m older and things like that,” Schmid said. “I’ve always said the one that I like, the one that’s important to me, is the playoff wins (19). I know I lead in that, and that’s something I’d like to continue to expand upon and grow upon. Sometimes you can have a great regular season and everything gets forgotten if you don’t do well in the playoffs. So the object is we want to do well in the playoffs. It will be a nice accomplishment, and I’ll be proud of it for sure; but it just means I’ve been here for a while.”
Sounders defender James Riley was helped from the practice pitch Tuesday with an ankle injury. Schmid said Riley wanted to continue and that removing him was just a precaution. ... The team practiced for little more than an hour Tuesday before moving inside for weight training. ... The Sounders are off today. They will return to practice Thursday before flying to Kansas City on Friday.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808