Better offense might make the difference in playoffs this year for Sounders FC
Sounders FC has scored just one goal in four playoff games and has not advanced past the first round.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle Sounders FC @ Real Salt Lake, 7 p.m., FSC
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TUKWILA — Four playoff games.
One goal scored.
As accomplished as Sounders FC has been in its first three years, there is one thing missing from its list of feats: postseason success.
General manager Adrian Hanauer said winning a playoff series "is important to the growth of our club."
Coach Sigi Schmid said it's something the team is hoping to finally add to its résumé.
And a chance to fulfill those seasonlong aspirations starts Saturday as Seattle kicks off a home-and-home, aggregate-goals Western Conference semifinal series with a 7 p.m. game at Real Salt Lake.
The difference in the playoffs this season, the Sounders hope, could be their league-leading offense, which ranks first with 56 goals. New York and Sporting Kansas City finished second with 50.
That production has led to confidence.
"We're scoring goals now; that's the most important thing," midfielder Brad Evans said. "We know we're going to create four to five good chances — we've done it every single game this year — and it's a matter of just finishing them. They have a good defense, but at the same time I think our offense has been tremendous this year, so I'll bank on that."
The hottest team might also have league's hottest player.
Forward Fredy Montero has 11 goals in his past 12 games in all competitions — MLS, U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League. He has scored or had an assist in eight straight league games, the longest streak in MLS this season.
But it's far from a one-man show.
Five different Sounders have five or more goals this season. Their opponent, Real Salt Lake, has two.
Midfielder Lamar Neagle, who has five goals, said balanced scoring is huge.
"If they stop one of us or focus on Fredy, then someone else can step up and score goals," said the Federal Way native, who had the winning goal in Seattle's 2-1 win at Salt Lake on May 28.
The Sounders have also shown a propensity for scoring late. Seattle leads the league with 15 goals in the final 15 minutes of games, leading to an MLS-best seven come-from-behind wins.
"When you (come back) once or twice, now you have confidence you can," said goalkeeper Kasey Keller. "We've come back so many times that there's no fear, no deflation when we're a goal down with 20 minutes left."
Added Neagle: "We've showed character through the end of every game. Sometimes we've made it more exciting than we should, but we know it's there if we need it."
• Mauro Rosales (MCL sprain) didn't travel with the team Friday. The midfielder, who leads the team with 13 assists, will remain in Seattle and work with team trainers in hopes of being ready for Wednesday's home leg.
• Midfielder Alvaro Fernandez could be called up for Uruguay's FIFA World Cup qualifier against Chile on Nov. 11. The match falls within a two-week MLS break for the FIFA international window, so Fernandez could still be available for potential Sounders FC playoff games Nov. 6 and Nov. 20.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|On the rise|
|Sounders FC leads MLS with 56 goals and has increased its scoring output each season.|
|Year||Goals per game|
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