In horse-racing terms, the Seattle Sounders were willing to lay off the pace in the first leg of their Western Conference championship series — as long as they didn’t drift so far back that they couldn’t make up the distance by the finish line.
After their 1-0 loss at Los Angeles on Sunday, the Sounders spoke confidently about being well-positioned for the second leg. But they also understand there’s a lot of ground to make up, especially in a series that uses road goals as a tiebreaker.
“Obviously we would have preferred a tie or a win, but only losing 1-0, we don’t feel horrible about that,” coach Sigi Schmid said after the opener in California. “Overall I was pleased with what we did out there.”
However, the day before the match, a 1-0 loss appeared pretty far down Schmid’s list of preferred results.
“The attitude is to come out of Game 1 being in position to win it in Game 2,” he said Saturday. “So that means if you win the game in Game 1, you’re in great position in Game 2. If you tie the game, you’re also in good position. If you lose the game and you get an away goal, you’re in better position than if you lose the game 1-0. But the main thing is to come out of Game 1 in a position to win it in Game 2, because every time we’ve had Game 2 at home, we’ve done well.”
The Sounders have played the second leg of an MLS playoff series at home twice and have won both times: 2-0 over Real Salt Lake in 2011 and 2-1 over the Galaxy in 2012. They also won the home second leg of their 2013 CONCACAF Champions League series against Tigres UANL, 3-1.
However, that CCL win was the only one that put Seattle through to the next round, overcoming a 1-0 road loss in the opener. In the MLS series, Seattle had opened with 3-0 losses against both RSL and L.A., more than their home wins could overcome.
The 1-0 road loss at L.A. is obviously better than those 3-0 losses, but it is complicated by MLS’ shift to the road-goals tiebreaker. That sets up a second leg Sunday in CenturyLink Field in which L.A. advances with a win or a draw or even a one-goal loss by any score other than 1-0. A Sounders 1-0 win would send the match to added time and penalty kicks if needed. Otherwise, Seattle needs to win by at least two goals to advance.
A road goal in the opener would have brightened the picture considerably, and the Sounders’ 10 shots produced chances. However, their dangerously timed offensive slump continued, as the Sounders have managed one goal over three playoff games and none over the last 215 minutes.
The Galaxy took 20 shots, leaving the team with its own share of regret about not saddling the Sounders with an even tougher task.
“Of all the results, that was probably the third best: 2-0 or 3-0 would have been second and first best,” Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan said. “But they had a few chances too, and keeping that team scoreless isn’t easy. … We are full of confidence going there. We are going to get their best shot, and we look forward to it.”
FC Dallas forward Tesho Akindele was named MLS rookie of the year Monday. Akindele had seven goals and three assists over 26 regular-season appearances. Michael Parkhurst won the individual fair play award, and the Philadelphia Union won the team fair play award. Three more awards will be announced Tuesday, including defender of the year, in which Seattle’s Chad Marshall is a finalist. … The Sounders flew home Sunday, took Monday off and will return to training Tuesday.