Seattle Sounders FC will open the first round of the Major League Soccer playoffs against the Houston Dynamo on Thursday at Qwest Field, with kickoff tentatively set for 7 p.m. on ESPN2.
The Dynamo set the pairing with a 3-2 win at Chivas USA on Sunday. Houston jumped to a 3-0 lead and then survived a late Chivas rally.
The result moved Houston (13-8-9) into second place in the Western Conference, and dropped Seattle (12-7-11) to third.
“Houston is a quality team,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said Sunday. “They have been there year after year for the last three or four years, and eventually if you want to win the championship you have to beat whoever is thrown in front of you. They are the ones that are there, and they’re our challenge.”
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Seattle and Houston have played three times, with the Sounders taking two victories and a draw.
The Sounders won, 2-1, in a regular-season meeting on July 11 at Qwest Field, then took a 2-1 decision in a U.S. Open Cup match on July 21 at Starfire Sports Stadium. The clubs played to a 1-1 draw in the Sounders’ Aug. 23 visit to Houston.
“Each game is a mutually exclusive event,” Schmid said. “In the Open Cup, different players were on the field than were in the MLS games. It was a different time of the year when we played them in July. When we went back there and played in August, time has passed and they have changed their personnel a little bit and we changed our starting personnel a little bit.”
First-round winners in the MLS playoffs are determined by the combined score of two games. The second game is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 8 at Robertson Stadium on the University of Houston campus.
If the aggregate goals are even at the end of that game, a 30-minute extra time period (divided into two 15-minute halves) will be played.
If the total score remains even, the series will be determined by penalty kicks.
“You approach it like it’s one big long game with the first 90 minutes in Seattle and the second 90 minutes in another city,” Schmid said. “My concerns are just when you are at home first you want to get a good result. Some teams put too much pressure on themselves when they are at home for the first game. They push the envelope too quickly and all of a sudden they put themselves in a bad situation.”
The winner advances to the Western Conference final, which is a single game to be played at the home of the higher seed.
The MLS Cup championship game will be played Nov. 22 at Qwest Field.
The other Western Division series pairs No. 1 Los Angeles against No. 4 Chivas.
In the East, Supporters’ Shield-winner Columbus will meet Real Salt Lake and Chicago will play New England Revolution, which qualified Sunday in the final game of the MLS regular season.
The Sounders sold all of their playoff tickets within 30 minutes of putting them on sale Saturday.
However, Sounders officials have decided to make an extra 3,000 tickets available by opening the lower section of the upper deck. Ticket information is available at soundersfc.com.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808
First-round MLS playoff pairings:
Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Chivas USA
Houston Dynamo vs. Seattle Sounders, 7 p.m. Thursday, ESPN2
New England Revolution vs.
Columbus Crew vs. Real Salt Lake
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