The Seattle Sounders FC continues positioning for MLS playoff competition as the team wraps up the regular season with some challenging tests, beginning Friday against Chivas USA in league competition against a team that has posed past difficulties.
While Seattle scored a win over Chivas in the semifinal round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup competition with a 3-1 win in Tukwila, enabling it to go on to the finals and defend its title, circumstances have been different in regular MLS action. In the two seasons of the Sounders franchise the team is 0-2-2 against Chivas. The Open Cup win marked the first match in which Seattle scored on the Los Angeles-based team.
Following Seattle’s Thursday workout in Tukwila, coach Sigi Schmid, in discussing the current challenge against Chivas, compared the opposition’s possession-oriented style alongside the tactics of Latin teams.
“Ball possession is a big part of their game,” Schmid related. “It’s a big part of Chivas Guadalajara’s game as well. Certainly ball possession is more of a Latin element sometimes and sometimes European teams are too direct, unless you’re Spain, and sometimes teams in South America are too indirect, unless you are sometimes Brazil...They are similar a little bit but I think it’s more from the philosophy of the coach and Martin [Vasquez’s] philosophy is to keep possession of the ball and they are a good ball possession team.”
The Sounders are currently the hottest team in American soccer with a league mark of 13-9-6 and 45 points. The emerald city team has won four consecutive matches after beating Kansas City 2-1 on the road last week to clinch an MLS postseason berth. It is undefeated at 7-0-2 at home in nine MLS and Open Cup matches since June 10.
The current season has not gone well on the whole for Chivas USA. The team stands at 8-14-5 with 28 points. Chivas snapped a three-game losing string with a 3-0 home victory over Toronto FC, but has fallen on hard times after qualifying for the playoffs four straight years.
After discussing the team tactically Schmid evaluated Chivas’ lineup:
“[Justin] Braun is not out definitely at this stage so he’s still a possibility. I think [Giancarlo] Maldonado obviously is somebody that will play. He will be back. [Jesus] Padilla came in and played up front. It changes them a little bit, for sure, because [Alan] Gordon and Braun are more big, powerful strikers...Maldonado and Padilla are quick guys who are going to run around, try to find little spaces and go around you. So it changes how you play a little bit. In the back it changes your mental side as you approach the game.”
Friday’s final MLS home game is Fan Appreciation night with action set to commence at 8 p.m. The match will be televised nationally by ESPN2.
After facing Chivas USA the Sounders move back into international competition for the final time this season. They face CD Saprissa of Costa Rica in concluding group stage CONCACAF Champions League competition on October 19. That game is slated for 7 p.m. at the Xbox Pitch of Qwest Field for 7 p.m. PT and will be seen live nationally on Fox Soccer Channel.
The Sounders then close 2010 regular season play with a road jaunt. The competition will be the Houston Dynamo in an October 23 faceoff.
With the playoffs looming ever closer, Schmid responded to a question Thursday concerning the team’s prospective positioning.
“I think there is an advantage to (being) seventh,” Schmid said. “The advantage to seventh is that if you’re seventh and you win your series and number eight wins their series you could be at home in the conference final, whichever conference that might be.
“But you could be at home in that conference final so there is a certain advantage to seventh. I try not to look at it because I learned a long time ago that I don’t wish for this team or that team. For sure there is an advantage to seventh. If you finish sixth or eighth then even if you win your series you are still going to be on the road for the conference final...Being East or West doesn’t matter.”
Schmid concluded the playoff discussion by comparing and contrasting the methods of MLS as opposed to the National Basketball Association.
“I have long been a proponent of what they do, like, in the NBA,” the Sounders coach stated. “If you win your division, you get an automatic (playoff berth). But then when they actually seed the playoffs (and) get to the matchups, it’s 1 against 8, 2 against 7.
“I think that’s the appropriate way to do it...I think you can give the two automatics to the division winners and then I think you have got to look at it maybe and say, ‘OK, let’s seed the teams now. 1 plays 8, 2 plays 7,’ and we go that way because obviously two years ago you had New York winning the Western Conference championship and last year you had Real Salt Lake winning the Eastern Conference championship.
“It’s lost its point anyway...so you can call it whatever you want to call it but I think 1 versus 8, 2 versus 7 is better in my opinion. I think that’s something the league will look at, but obviously they don’t want to change the system every year.”