Seattle Sounders FC will unfurl its first championship banner today at Qwest Field, signifying its U.S. Open Cup title.
Then the club will continue working to add a second or even a third banner: Supporters Shield and MLS Cup.
But for all of the Sounders’ early success, and for all their hopes ahead, their opponent today can remain singularly unimpressed.
Chivas USA is the only Major League Soccer team not to have conceded a single point in the standings or a single goal on the pitch to Sounders FC.
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“It always goes that way with every team you coach,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “There’s certain teams that, for some reason, they’re just comfortable to match up with. There’s other teams that are uncomfortable to match up with. In our two games with Chivas … both games were pretty even when you look at stats and shots and shots on goal. I think we had chances.”
Both previous meetings were on the road: a 2-0 defeat on April 18 and 1-0 on June 6. Seattle outshot the Red and White 11-6 in each, but Chivas put more shots on goal – and in goal.
That leaves the Southern California club as the only MLS team to have clinched a season series against the Sounders. Seattle already has won series against Houston, Colorado, San Jose, New York, Los Angeles and Toronto and has split with Real Salt Lake and Chicago.
“It’s something that we know,” Sounders midfielder Peter Vagenas said this week. “Sigi has talked all year and emphasized winning your season series with opponents: a win and a draw, two wins. And Chivas is the only team that we haven’t done that against. And regardless of what happens (today), we won’t have the season series against them.
“But I can’t stress enough how important this game is. It’s a home game for us. It’s an opportunity to get three points. We have a tough schedule down the stretch.”
Seattle opens the game one point ahead of Chivas in the standings, although Chivas has played two fewer games. If Chivas wins again today, it will pass Seattle in the standings.
However, if the Sounders win, they could climb into a tie for first place in the Western Conference – if Houston loses to Real Salt Lake and Los Angeles loses or draws with Toronto.
After today, the Sounders play three straight games on the road before returning home for their regular-season finale Oct. 24.
Before today’s game, Sounders FC will display the U.S. Open Cup and unfurl a banner marking its Open Cup championship win over D.C. United.
Schmid hopes some swagger from that achievement will carry over in a way that will benefit his club though the stretch run of the regular season and into the playoffs.
“I think for a new franchise and a new group, it’s good to have won the Open Cup to get confidence, being able to win a knockout game,” he said. “That’s what the playoffs are all about at the end of the day. As you get to the end of the season, some of the games become knockout games. So the more knockout games you win, the more your confidence grows.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808
CHIVAS USA (11-9-3; 36 pts.) AT SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (9-6-10; 37 pts.)
Kickoff: Noon, Qwest Field.
TV: Fox Soccer Channel.
Radio: 97.3-FM, 1210-AM (Spanish).
Head-to-head: Chivas defeated Seattle 2-0 on April 18 and 1-0 on June 6. Both games were played at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
Team leaders: For Chivas – G 7 Eduardo Lillingston; A 4 Gerson Mayen; S 16 Sacha Kljestan; SOG 16 Kljestan. For Seattle – G 11 Fredy Montero; A 7 Nate Jaqua; S 71 Montero; SOG 25 Montero.
Coach Sigi Schmid scouting report: “We haven’t scored a goal yet against Chivas, and that’s something we need to change this weekend. We have to concentrate on creating our opportunities and make sure we finish them.”
Notes: Goals could be rare today. Chivas’ Zach Thornton leads MLS keepers with a 0.82 GAA, and Seattle’s Kasey Keller is second at 0.90. Seattle also has been shut out in three straight home games, and Chivas has been shut out in five of its last six road games. ... Chivas is coached by former Tacoma Stars standout Preki. The game also is a homecoming for forward Maykel Galindo, who played with the USL Sounders. ... All top players on the Sounders roster are available today. ... Pregame ceremonies will include the display of the Sounders’ newly won U.S. Open Cup, the unfurling of an Open Cup championship banner and recognition of members from the original Sounders of the North American Soccer League. ... The game is sold out.
Next: 4:30 p.m. Sept. 26, at New England Revolution.
Don Ruiz, The News Tribune