For fans of Seattle Sounders FC, today will bring both an important game and a joyful celebration as the expansion team’s first regular season comes to an end.
However, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid wants his club concentrating only on the former, while saving the latter for after the game.
“We are focused on what it means for us to try and move up in the situation this weekend,” Schmid said Friday. “We can move up from fourth to third, at a minimum, this weekend. We can move to second. We can move to first. We have to keep that as our focus because that makes a big difference as you move forward into the subsequent rounds.”
The Sounders clinched a spot in the MLS playoffs last weekend with their 3-2 win over Kansas City.
However, Chicago’s midweek win over Chivas USA put Seattle just one point behind Western Conference tri-leaders Chivas, Los Angeles and Houston with one game left for each team. The Galaxy will play host to San Jose tonight, while the Dynamo will visit Chivas on Sunday.
A Sounders win, Galaxy loss and Houston-Chivas draw would give Seattle the Western Conference championship. Other scenarios could get Seattle into second place, which could be important because first- and second-place finishers in each conference get home-pitch advantage in the decisive game of the two-game aggregate-score first-round series.
However, to have any chance of winning tonight, the Sounders need to score at least one goal – something they haven’t done over their last 404 minutes at Qwest Field.
Meanwhile, Dallas arrives with a four-game winning streak and at least as much urgency as Seattle. The Hoops’ late charge has only brought them even with Toronto, New England and D.C. United for the league’s final playoff spot.
“It should be a wide-open game,” Schmid said. “Dallas will probably push forward, and we really don’t think about not having scored at home in a while. It’s all about continuing to create opportunities. And we owe our fans some goals, so hopefully we will get some goals this weekend.”
The Sounders FC front office also will use this game to honor fans in other ways.
Staff will hand out “I gave my full 90” T-shirts before the march to the match, at 6 p.m. at Occidental Park. And at 6:30, Sounders FC ownership will dedicate a permanent installation on the northwest wall of Qwest Field, in recognition of the original season-ticket holders.
After the game, Schmid and his players are expected to pay an on-field tribute to the sellout crowd that is certain to break the MLS single-season average home attendance record of 28,916 set by Los Angeles in the league’s inaugural 1996 season.
“Everybody’s pleased (about making the playoffs),” Sounders designated player Freddie Ljungberg said this week. “And we’ll see: Maybe we can even clinch first place in our conference. ...(But) I think maybe my biggest memory would be the fan support, what a great atmosphere we’re having. Maybe that’s what I’ll take with me the most.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808
FC DALLAS (11-12-6; 39 points) AT SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (11-7-11; 44)
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m., Qwest Field.
TV: KONG 6/16. Radio: 97.3-FM, and 1210-AM (Spanish).
Head-to-head: The teams tied, 1-1, at Dallas on May 16.
Team leaders: For Dallas – G 17, Jeff Cunningham; A 11, Dave van den Bergh; S 71, Cunningham; SOG 38, Cunningham. For Seattle – G 12, Fredy Montero; A 7, Nate Jaqua; S 81, Montero; SOG 29, Montero.
Coach Sigi Schmid scouting report: “I think Daniel Hernandez has really helped them by becoming an anchor in the middle of midfield and has really allowed their two outside backs to just take off and go. When you’ve got a hot striker like Cunningham, everything is possible. He is on fire right now.”
Notes: The Sounders could finish first, second or third in the West with a win; second, third or fourth with a draw; and fourth with a loss. Dallas is one of four teams tied for the eighth and final playoff spot and almost certainly needs a win to qualify. ... Dallas started the season 1-7-3 but has gone 7-3-1 since the All-Star break and takes a four-game winning streak into this match. ... The Hoops lead the league with an average of 1.69 goals per game. ... Cunningham is the MLS goals leader. Montero is tied for third. ... Dallas defender George John is a rookie from the University of Washington. ... Any red cards issued today will carry into the playoffs. ... Postseason tickets go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. today.
Next: First-round playoff series, with opponent, dates and sites TBD.
Don Ruiz, The News Tribune