Sounders confident despite its big task ahead
Players say there's no reason there can't be a complete turnaround
Seattle Times staff reporter
Real Salt Lake @ Sounders FC, 7 p.m., ESPN2
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SANDY, Utah — After what was arguably the worst performance in franchise history, Sounders FC will need one of its best to keep its season alive.
A crushing 3-0 defeat Saturday against Real Salt Lake in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals means Seattle must win, and win big, in the 7 p.m. series finale Wednesday at CenturyLink Field.
A three-goal victory in regulation would set up 30 minutes of overtime and, if the teams are still even, a penalty-kick shootout. A four-goal triumph, however unlikely, would advance the Sounders to their first conference final.
"We've got to score four — it's very simple," said coach Sigi Schmid.
Simple in its straightforwardness, not its rate of being achieved.
Real Salt Lake hasn't lost by four goals in an MLS game since April 21, 2007, though it has lost by three goals in three instances within the past five weeks.
Seattle has three victories this season by three or more goals.
"We've dug ourselves a hole," said forward Mike Fucito, "but if any team can come back, I believe it's us."
Teammate Fredy Montero agreed. When asked if the Sounders could make up the deficit, he answered: "Sure, why not? They won 3-0 against us. Why can't we do the same?"
If any team has embodied a comeback spirit this season, it's Seattle — which won an MLS-best seven games after allowing the first goal of the contest. Saturday, however, Seattle looked anything but the trophy-winning team it had been for months.
In the areas the Sounders said they had improved for a deep playoff run — particularly toughness and goal-scoring — they hadn't.
Seattle's league-leading offense was shockingly poor in keeping possession and didn't record a single shot on goal.
Stalwart midfielder Osvaldo Alonso uncharacteristically struggled and was fortunate to avoid ejection after striking RSL forward Alvaro Saborio in the face in the second half.
Regarding the rematch, defender James Riley said the team has to regroup "and try to put it all on the line on Wednesday. It starts with just getting one goal."
Schmid said there's "no secret strategy" for getting back into the series.
"Everybody's got to put in a better performance, from the coaching staff, to the support staff, to the players — everybody's got to do better at what they did because (Saturday) wasn't good enough," the Seattle coach said.
• RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando didn't have to make a single save in the shutout victory and admitted his teammates made his job "pretty easy." He doesn't expect more of the same Wednesday.
"Seattle is a tough place to play," Rimando said. "You can't be too comfortable with any score. They're still a great team and they'll be better at home, so we have to make sure we do everything right with our bodies, and I'm sure coach (Jason Kreis) will have a game plan for us. 3-0 is a good lead, but I just think we need to continue to play well."
• Salt Lake defenders Jamison Olave (quad) and Nat Borchers (knee) left the game Saturday. They were scheduled to be evaluated Sunday and their availability for Wednesday could be in doubt.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or email@example.com
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