Major League Soccer’s regular season comes to an end today, seven months and 323 games after it began.
The final match kicks off at 6 p.m. and it pairs a couple of playoff-bound clubs: Seattle Sounders FC at the Los Angeles Galaxy.
With a win or draw today, Seattle will pass Real Salt Lake for No. 2 seeding in the Western Conference. With a loss, the Sounders will finish third.
In either case, Seattle and RSL will open the playoffs against each other in a home-and-away, aggregate-score series. The No. 2 seed will be awarded the advantage of playing the deciding second game at home.
“(Winning today) is important for a number of reasons,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “Probably the most important thing is for our guys to stay in the rhythm.”
Earning three points today would give the Sounders 59 for the season, which would be third in MLS behind San Jose and Sporting Kansas City. That would mean that if the Sounders advance through the Western Conference playoffs to the MLS Cup, it would be played in Seattle against any opponent other than Kansas City.
However, it already is a mathematical certainty that this will mark the first time that Seattle fails to improve on its point total of the season before, as the 2011 club finished with 63 points.
In unfinished individual business, forward Eddie Johnson will look to build on his club-record 14 goals. Just one goal behind is Fredy Montero – who has won or shared the Sounders’ goal-scoring category in each of its first three seasons.
Midfielder Mauro Rosales needs one more assist to top the club-record 13 he registered last season.
Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning comes into this match with a 0.72 goals-against average, on pace to improve on the club-record 0.92 established by Kasey Keller in the 2009 expansion season.
Beyond the numbers, the Sounders simply want to stay in top form as they head into their fourth playoff appearance still looking for their first series win.
“They know we’re about to enter the second season – the real season, the business part of the season,” Schmid said. “So we’ve got to get down to business, and that’s our attack for (this game). But we’ve got one more piece of business to take care of before we get to the biggest job.”
The Galaxy has less to play for, since Los Angles is anchored at the No. 4 spot and assured of home-field advantage for the play-in match with No. 5 Vancouver on Thursday.
Schmid thinks that allows enough time between games for Galaxy coach Bruce Arena to field any of his players today and still have them game-ready for Thursday.
“We’re going to see more of his first team,” Schmid said. “I don’t know if he (is) going to play guys who have a little bit of knocks. Is he going to play (Landon) Donovan? Is he going to play (David) Beckham? I really don’t know. … I think he’s going to be cautious as to who he plays; but I think you’re going to see a lot more of a first-choice lineup.”
The Galaxy indicates that is the plan.
“I’m available and ready to play,” Donovan told MLSsoccer.com. “… It’s a balance between being smart, staying sharp, hopefully avoiding injuries for anybody and being ready to go on (into the playoffs).”blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer