The overworked phrase “must win” actually applies today. Unfortunately for Seattle Sounders FC, it applies only to them.
The Sounders must win their match against the Los Angeles Galaxy or their second season ends tonight at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
The bar is set lower for the Galaxy. A draw is enough to get them through to the Western Conference finals of the MLS Cup playoffs.
Los Angeles earned that advantage one week ago by opening this two-game aggregate-score series with a 1-0 win at Qwest Field.
That means Seattle heads into the final 90 minutes one goal behind.
“I used to have a player I coached in L.A. that used to say, ‘One-nothing is nothing,’ ” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “You can make up 1-0 in three minutes; so we have 90 minutes to make up 1-0. I think the field in L.A. suits us. It plays wide. We are looking forward to playing them.”
The Sounders might also take some comfort in looking back.
On Thursday, the San Jose Earthquakes survived a situation practically identical to the one Seattle faces tonight. The Quakes had lost 1-0 at home and needed to make up that goal and more on the pitch of Eastern Conference champion New York.
They did it by forcing the Red Bulls out of a defensive posture with a goal in the sixth minute, and then withstanding a flurry of shots in the last 15 minutes for a 3-1 win that sent them on to the Eastern final.
“San Jose went into a place where nobody expected them to win,” Schmid said. “… If you finish your chances well, you get an early goal, helps your momentum. … Even though they got dominated in possession and all those stats favored New York, it’s all about finishing goals. It certainly shows us that it’s very, very possible.”
Possible, but history says not easy.
Since MLS adopted the two-game aggregate-score series in 2003, only San Jose and the 2006 Colorado Rapids advanced after losing the opener at home. Six others have advanced after losing an opener on the road.
“I don’t think it’s something that is insurmountable,” Schmid said. “I think it matters how the game goes early on. … We will see if they are a little more offensively inclined at home. If they are going to play (as defensively as they did in Seattle) that’s something we will determine early on in the game and then the rest of the game will flow out of that. We have been a good road team.”
The numbers support Schmid’s point: At 6-6-3, the Sounders were the second-best road team in the league (behind Los Angeles) and have won three of their past four league games away from home. The Galaxy, meanwhile, has lost two of its past three at home.
Other numbers send more mixed signals.
• The Galaxy has beaten the Sounders in all three league meetings this season – by a combined 8-1.
• Los Angeles’ all-time home playoff record is 19-2-1, while outscoring opponents 55-16. The Galaxy’s last home playoff loss came in 1998. Since then, the team has gone 15-0-1.
• Seattle is 1-1 against the Galaxy at Home Depot Center, with the win coming 2-0 last season.
• Seattle has never scored in the postseason – a stretch that now stands at 300 minutes, 60 short of the MLS postseason record.
• Fredy Montero, who matched Steve Zakuani for the team scoring lead with 10 goals, hasn’t scored a league goal since August.
“We feel a little sad and a little hurt (that we lost the opener),” Montero said through a translator. “(But) we’re going to go down to LA, and we’re going to get those goals that we need.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (14-11-6) AT LOS ANGELES GALAXY (19-7-5)
KICKOFF: 6 p.m., Home Depot Center; Carson, Calif.
TV: ESPN. RADIO: 770-AM.
HEAD TO HEAD: L.A. leads 3-1-1 in league play. The Galaxy has swept the three MLS meetings this season by a combined, 8-1. Seattle is 1-1 at L.A.
REGULAR SEASON STATS: For Seattle – G 10, Fredy Montero and Steve Zakuani; A 10, Montero; S 91, Montero; SOG 34, Montero; GAA 1.15, Kasey Keller. For L.A. – G 17, Edson Buddle; A 16, Landon Donovan; S 96, Buddle; SOG 43, Buddle; GAA 0.90, Donovan Ricketts.
SIGI SCHMID SCOUTING REPORT: “It’s a matter of creating a similar amount of chances than we did the last game. If we can put 15 shots, if we can put 8-10 shots on goal and force Ricketts into saves, I think we will get the goals we need.”
NOTES: This is the second match of a two-game aggregate-score series. Los Angeles holds a one-goal lead and therefore would advance with a win or draw today. Seattle would advance with a win of two goals or more. If the Sounders have a one-goal lead at the end of regulation, 30 minutes of added time will be played. If the aggregate score remains even, the series will be decided by penalty kicks. … The Galaxy was 9-4-2 at home this season, but lost two of its last three. Seattle has won three of its last four road matches. … The Sounders have never scored a goal in postseason play, a streak of 300 minutes. … Defender Jeff Parke (ankle) is doubtful. He would likely be replaced by Tyrone Marshall. … Ricketts was selected MLS goalkeeper of the year. Omar Gonzalez was one of three finalists for defender of the year. Buddle is among the finalists for league MVP. Donovan is the all-time leader in MLS playoff goals (17). … Two Galaxy players who missed the series opener with injuries – Todd Dunivant (hamstring) and Michael Stevens (knee) – are expected to be available. … The Los Angeles-area forecast for kickoff calls for temperatures around 60 with a 40 percent chance of rain. … Montero and designated player Blaise Nkufo each received cautions in the first leg. If either receives another today, he would be ineligible for the Western final, should the Sounders advance. … The referee is Baldomero Toledo.
NEXT: The season ends for the loser. The winner advances to the Western Conference final.
Don Ruiz, staff writer