If the Seattle Sounders want to extend their season beyond Sunday, they will have to do something never before done in Major League Soccer: overcome a three-goal deficit going into the final leg of an aggregate-score series.
As the Sounders reported to training Tuesday, that is the challenge they embraced.
“So many stories have been written and so many good things have come from teams that haven’t quit when they should have or had their backs against the wall,” defender Jeff Parke said. “… We could do something special here, and they could be talking about us for a while if we can come back and pull this off. We all believe in each other and believe we can get it done.”
The Sounders got themselves into this position by falling 3-0 to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the first leg of their Western Conference final series in Southern California last weekend. The series will resolve at 6 p.m. Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
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Since MLS went to an aggregate-score postseason series in 2003, 11 teams have advanced after losing the first leg. Nine of those overcame a one-goal deficit, and two rallied from two goals behind.
“Reality is we’re in a hole – we dug a hole – and we’ve got to work really, really hard to get out of it,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “Sunday has an opportunity to be a fantastic evening for the club, for the league, for soccer. But it’s a deep hole, and we have to work hard to get out of it.”
Even at that, the Sounders don’t have to look to Hollywood for inspiration. They can find some in the MLS record books.
• The 2003 San Jose Earthquakes actually advanced from a four-goal deficit. They went into the second leg two goals down, and then gave up two more goals in the first 13 minutes of the resolution game before rallying for a 5-4 aggregate win.
Their opponent was the Galaxy.
• These 2012 Sounders have scored three or more goals five times, and they have won by three or more goals four times.
Among those was a 4-0 win over the Galaxy.
“We know it’s going to be difficult, but nothing’s impossible,” forward Eddie Johnson said. “They came down here this year, and we were able to score four goals. But these are the playoffs, and playoffs are different. A lot of guys on their team have really stepped their game up. … We know we have a lot of hard work. We know it’s doable. But I think everyone has to be on their game to make this opportunity a reality.”
More than 40,000 tickets had been sold as of midday Tuesday. Additional seating areas are being opened in the east side upper deck. … Midfielder Mario Martinez has been called in by the Honduras national team for its friendly against Peru tonight in Houston. Martinez is scheduled to return to Seattle on Thursday. “The coach decided that he was going to bring him in – it didn’t matter that we were in the playoffs,” Schmid said. “So Mario’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. We’ll see how it goes: how his travel goes, how many minutes he plays. Obviously, I think he’s played well the last two games, but we’ll see” about his availability for Sunday. … Schmid said defender Leo Gonzalez (hamstring) is almost fully over his injury, although he probably isn’t fit enough to play 90 minutes. Schmid also said Mauro Rosales (hamstring) is improving but that his status remains uncertain.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org