Sounders FC could see a lot of Home Depot Center over the next few weeks.
Seattle will conclude its MLS regular season there tonight against Chivas USA, could visit again during the playoffs against the Los Angeles Galaxy, and would like to end the season there in the MLS Cup final.
However, the Carson, Calif., pitch has been a rough patch of ground for the Sounders, who are 1-4-2 in regular-season and postseason matches there.
“It’s just been difficult because of some of our results with the Galaxy,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said Friday before his team flew to Southern California. “ Our luck against Chivas has never been really good down there. We just want to be comfortable there, so if we have to come back and play there again, that we’re comfortable with the surroundings and the field.”
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The Sounders are 0-2-1 all-time at Chivas USA. They are 1-2-1 on the road against the Galaxy, who would have home-field advantage if the teams meet in the Western Conference final.
This season’s MLS Cup will be held at Home Depot on Nov. 20.
So, Schmid figures tonight would be a good time for his club to start changing its luck.
“Home Depot is a field that hopefully we’ll be playing on again, so playing well on that field is just another thing that will serve well for our memories,” he said. “It’s the main thing of continuing to be a good road team.”
The Sounders will finish as the No. 2 seed in the West regardless of the result tonight. That means they will open the playoffs next weekend with a visit to the No. 3 seed – either Real Salt Lake or FC Dallas.
Those teams are tied going into their final league games tonight: Salt Lake at home against Portland, and Dallas visiting San Jose. If they remain even in points, RSL holds the tiebreaker.
Schmid says he has learned not to indicate a preference.
“It happened to me at UCLA,” he said. “I said ‘I hope we play these guys and not these guys,’ and we end up playing the other guys. I’m sure there’s something in my constitution that the team noticed, and as a result there’s a little bit of fear. So for me, it never matters. I feel confident no matter what team we play. And to win a championship, you’ve got to beat everybody along the way. So, it doesn’t matter.”
The Sounders hope full focus will come easier now that Champions League group round and U.S. Open Cup are behind them, leaving only their quest for MLS Cup.
“We can concentrate on just the games left and this weekend in L.A., and the playoffs coming up,” defender Jeff Parke said. “We’ll see who we play and gear up for them, and that’s the most important thing.”
With no playoffs to look forward to, Chivas is down to its final game.
However, Schmid said the Goats still have incentive to try their best in these final 90 minutes.
“Guys are fighting for spots,” he said. “They know that when you don’t advance into the playoffs there’s going to be a housecleaning, so you want to make sure you’re not the guy that gets swept out with the dirt.”
Defender James Riley was named Sounders FC Humanitarian of the Year for the second consecutive season. Riley is a board member of the Renton/Skyway Boys & Girls Club and is involved with Susan G. Komen for the Cure and other causes. MLS announced it will hold a two-round SuperDraft on Jan. 12 followed by a four-round supplemental draft on Jan. 17. The Sounders will face either Pumas (Mexico), Santos (Mexico) or Los Angeles (MLS) when the Champions League resumes with its two-game, aggregate-score quarterfinal round in March.
SOUNDERS FC (17-7-9, 60 PTS) AT CHIVAS USA (8-13-12, 36 PTS)
7:30 p.m.; Home Depot Center; Carson, Calif.
TV: Ch. 5. RADIO: 97.3-FM.
CLUB LEADERS: For Seattle – G 12, Fredy Montero; A 13, Mauro Rosales; S 104, Montero; SOG 41, Montero; GAA 1.09, Kasey Keller. For Chivas – G 8, Nick LaBrocca and Justin Braun; A 7, Ante Jazic; S 76, LaBrocca; SOG 29, Braun; GAA 1.16, Dan Kennedy.
HEAD TO HEAD: Chivas leads 2-1-3 overall and 2-0-1 at home. The Sounders have never scored against Chivas on its home pitch.
NOTES: Seattle will finish with the second-best record in MLS regardless of this result, while Chivas is out of playoff contention. Seattle is 4-1 over its last five league games. Chivas is 1-5-4 over its last 10. The Goats are 5-6-5 at home and have conceded only 14 goals there. Montero has 11 goals over his last 11 competitions, while Chivas forward Juan Pablo Angel has six goals in his last five games. Braun (calf) is probable. Players receiving yellow cards today will be fined, but cards and accumulation suspensions do not carry into the playoffs. Red card suspensions do, however. The referee is Ricardo Salazar.
QUOTABLE: “We don’t want to push anybody out on the field or overextend somebody’s minutes or put them into a situation where they aggravate an injury or create an injury. But on the same token, we want to stay in our rhythm. We don’t have another game for a week, and we don’t want guys going two weeks without a game.” – Sounders coach Sigi Schmid on his personnel plan for this game.
NEXT: The Sounders will begin a road-and-home aggregate-score MLS Cup playoff series at Real Salt Lake or FC Dallas on either Oct. 29 or 30.