Sounders FC

Sounders hit road in search of playoff berth

The Sounders don’t all agree why they suddenly seem to have become a better team away from home than they are at Qwest Field.

But the odd trend may be unfolding at just the right time. Sounders FC (9-6-11, 38 points) begins a three-game road trip Saturday at New England, and won’t return home until Oct. 24 when Dallas visits for the final game of the regular season.

“We’d always rather play at home, believe me,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “(But) we don’t want to be coming back here for the last game of the season in a must-win situation to get into the playoffs. If it ends up that way, we’ll win that game.

“But our object is to take care of things on the road.”

Seattle is 0-1-3 over its past four home games, while on the road it is 3-0-1, including the U.S. Open Cup championship.

That reversal of the norm could be explained in a number of ways, or it could be a meaningless short-term fluke.

But Schmid and a growing number of players speculated that teams visiting Seattle seem increasingly happy to play in a defensive shell in hopes of getting out with a point.

“A lot of teams come here just to defend,” veteran Freddie Ljungberg said after Chivas and Seattle played to a scoreless draw. “They stand in the back and hope maybe they can catch us on a break. … I think sometimes maybe it’s easier now at the moment when we play away from home, because the opposition gives us a bit more space to play.”

That theory is about to be tested.

After visiting New England, the trip continues against defending MLS champion Columbus on Oct. 3, and then after a bye week the Sounders conclude their road schedule Oct. 17 at Kansas City.

MLS Cup tickets

The lower bowl of Qwest Field was nearly sold out within hours of individual tickets going on sale Monday for the MLS Cup championship game to be played in Seattle on Nov. 22.

Upper-level loge seats are being made available as needed.

Tickets were included as part of Seattle Sounders FC season packages. Limited single-game tickets went on sale last week, and general tickets went on sale Monday via Ticketmaster.

The previous 13 MLS Cup games have drawn an average of 36,450. The 2008 game drew a sellout crowd of 27,000 to the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

The 2009 game will kick off at 5:30 p.m. and will be broadcast live on ESPN and TeleFutura.

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808