Sounders FC faces Real Salt Lake with chance at No. 2 seed at stake
For the past few months, Sounders FC's stated goal has been earning the West's No. 2 seed in the playoffs. A home game Wednesday versus Real Salt Lake will be crucial to that aim.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Real Salt Lake @ Sounders FC, 7 p.m., KONG, NBCSN
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TUKWILA — Sounders FC's ambitions needed re-evaluation a few months ago.
As MLS-leading San Jose began to pull away atop the Western Conference, realism hit: Seattle would have to limit its initial expectations and refocus on being the best of the rest.
The realization came around four months ago, according to coach Sigi Schmid.
The new goal? Earning the No. 2 seed in the conference going into the playoffs.
"Certainly, if you can grab first, you try and grab first, but that opportunity slipped away," Schmid said. "So what's important now is to get us in the best playoff position we can."
That starts Wednesday with a 7 p.m. home game at CenturyLink Field against conference rival Real Salt Lake, which now sits in second place in the West at 17-11-4 (55 points). Third-place Seattle is three points behind with a 14-7-10 record, but has played one less game.
The Sounders finish the season at home against FC Dallas on Sunday and on the road against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Oct. 28.
"It would be good if we don't need (a result in) the last game in L.A.," said goalkeeper Michael Gspurning. "Let's achieve this at home against Salt Lake and Dallas — get the points here — so there's a little less pressure in the game against L.A."
Seattle is 0-1-1 this season against RSL, which also got the better of a playoff matchup last year against the Sounders. The two teams appear on course to meet again this postseason, but Schmid said his team isn't in need of a confidence boost.
"I don't care if we don't beat them in the regular season as long as we beat them in the playoffs," the coach said.
"We know in the two games we've played against Salt Lake, we've been in the game all the time, so it's just a matter of just making sure we tip the game in our direction. A win certainly helps the confidence, but it's something for us where wins in the playoffs are the most important."
The Sounders haven't scored in the two previous meetings with RSL this season, but more concerns might be on defense. Seattle will be without three starters on the back line Wednesday: left back Leo Gonzalez (hamstring strain), right back Adam Johansson (international duty) and center back Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (fractured cheekbone).
Patrick Ianni could also be a potential concern. He wasn't able to complete Tuesday's practice, though little information was released on what was ailing him.
Several defenders have played extended minutes this season, however, and Gspurning said he's confident in whomever plays in front of him.
Added Zach Scott, who appears set to start: "I think everybody's ready. That's what you play the game for — an opportunity to show coaches that you should be on the field."
• Sounders FC forward Eddie Johnson recorded the winning assist for the U.S. national team in a 3-1 win Tuesday against Guatemala, which clinched the U.S.'s advancement to the final round of World Cup qualifying in the region.
Midfielder Mario Martinez scored twice in an 8-1 win over Canada as Honduras also clinched a berth in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying. Defender Adam Johansson was unused off the bench for Sweden, which amazingly came back from a four-goal deficit to tie Germany, 4-4.
None of the three are expected to be available for the Sounders on Wednesday.
• Season-ticket holders and Alliance members can vote in person to remove or retain general manager Adrian Hanauer at home games Wednesday and Sunday. Votes otherwise must be cast at SoundersFCVote.com.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @joshuamayers