Seattle Sounders FC won’t conclude its Major League Soccer regular season until Sunday at Los Angeles.
However, there are six games today as MLS begins its final weekend. The Sounders have particular interest in a couple of those, while another will be followed closely across the league.
The one of most direct interest to Seattle is Vancouver’s visit to Real Salt Lake.
The Sounders and RSL begin this weekend tied for second place in the Western Conference with 56 points each. Seattle holds a five-goal lead in the first tiebreaker – goals scored – which means it almost certainly will take the No. 2 seeding if RSL loses today. However, if Salt Lake wins or draws, Seattle would need to at least match that result against the Galaxy.
Either way, Seattle and Salt Lake are assured of meeting in their opening playoff round. However, the higher seed gets home-field advantage in the deciding second game of the aggregate-score series.
Schmid said he won’t change strategy Sunday regardless of what RSL does today. Beyond Western seeding, the Sounders also want to finish as high as possible in the league points race because MLS Cup hosting rights go to the higher-seeded finalist.
That means the Sounders also will keep an eye on another game today: D.C. United (57 points) at Chicago (56 points).
However, the game likely to attract the most league-wide attention is San Jose’s visit to Portland, where Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski is within one goal of Roy Lassiter’s single-season record of 27, which has stood since 1996.
“He was a different type of goal scorer than Wondo,” Schmid said of Lassiter. “Wondo is a guy who’s busy and active and floats around and comes at you from different places. You turn a second, and all of a sudden he’s not there. Roy, you sort of knew where he was. But ... the only way you could stop it was if you took him down and got red-carded because his speed was just phenomenal.”
Schmid was asked if he hopes Wondolowski breaks the record.
“If he breaks it, great. And if he doesn’t, it’s still been a great run. It’s drawn a lot of attention to himself, his team and to the league,” he said. “Who are they playing? They’re playing Portland? Yes, I’m probably hoping he breaks it.”
Steve Zakuani knew he was OK even as he lay on the pitch Wednesday after taking a hit to his previously fractured right leg.
However, Sounders fans didn’t know that – as Zakuani learned when he checked his Twitter account after the game and found it crowded with messages from concerned followers.
“I was really surprised,” he said. “I didn’t know I would get people as scared. I didn’t mean to do that. People were like, ‘Not again.’ No, I just generally felt a little bit of a hit and came out. I really didn’t mean to do that. I sent out a tweet saying, ‘I’m not injured, don’t be concerned.’ I’m totally fine. It would take a lot for me to re-injure it.”
Zakuani played 77 minutes while recording one goal in Seattle’s 3-1 win over Marathon.
“He’s making a lot of good progress,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “He’s doing well enough where he’s going to be part of our playoff activity for sure. And then when he has this offseason to work on getting ready for the season in 2013, I think Steve can get back to where he was.”
DATE WITH TIGRES
The Sounders will return to CONCACAF Champions League play in March with a two-game, aggregate-score quarterfinal series against Tigres of Mexico.
Seattle’s group-play results earned the No. 3 seeding, while Tigres finished sixth. However, Schmid was philosophical about his team’s questionable reward for finishing group play unbeaten.
“You try to avoid a Mexican team if at all possible,” he said. “But it is what it is, and if we want to win the competition we’ve got to win against a team like that and in games like that. We’ve just got to take it as it comes. We’ve got the second game at home. That will be nice.”Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt