Sounders can earn No. 2 spot in Western Conference with win or tie in L.A.
A win or tie by Seattle at the Los Angeles Galaxy would clinch the No. 2 Western Conference playoff seed and third best record in MLS.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Sounders FC @ L.A. Galaxy, 6 p.m., ESPN
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TUKWILA — Playoff seeding. MLS Cup hosting rights. CONCACAF Champions League qualifying.
There are a lot of numbers-based, results-based motivations for Sounders FC to win in Sunday's 6 p.m. MLS regular-season finale at the Los Angeles Galaxy.
But that's not all.
"Probably the most important thing is just for our guys to stay in a rhythm," said coach Sigi Schmid.
"You don't want to go, necessarily, two weeks without playing (with your starters) if you can avoid it, especially when other teams are playing. You want to make sure you stay in a regular rhythm."
So what exactly is there to gain Sunday?
Well, a win or tie at The Home Depot Center would clinch the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and, as a result, home-field advantage in the second leg of the two-game playoff series against Real Salt Lake.
A win would also give Seattle the third-best overall record in MLS, which has its own potential rewards.
If the Sounders finish with the third-best record in the league, they would host any Eastern Conference team in the MLS Cup except Sporting Kansas City.
A top-three finish would mean also mean Seattle would qualify for the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League if San Jose or Kansas City — the league's top two teams — advances to the MLS Cup.
The top-ranked Earthquakes have already clinched a CCL berth by finishing with the best regular-season record and K.C. has, as well, by winning the U.S. Open Cup. Since MLS is granted four CCL berths, and teams can't double up, one of those would be guaranteed for the Sounders.
With such prizes at stake, Schmid said the Real Salt Lake score Saturday (a 0-0 tie with Vancouver) wouldn't affect the Sounders' preparation or strategy for Sunday's game.
That has filtered down to the players, who the coach said have been "more workmanlike" this week.
"They know we're about to enter the second season, the real season, the business part of the season," Schmid said. "We've got to get down to business and that starts after Sunday. But we've got one more business to take care of before we get to there."
So is the glitter of the upcoming playoffs a distraction heading into Sunday's game? Forward Eddie Johnson, who leads the team with 14 goals, said his main motivation has been treating every game like a playoff game.
"I think I'm at an age in my career where you look back and you want to look at what you've done," he said. "This is a special year to me — 28 years old, a lot more mature as a soccer player. I want to leave a legacy behind and be a part of a team that won something, did something special. I feel like we have an opportunity to do that here in Seattle."
• Midfielder Andy Rose did not travel with the team Saturday due to an adductor strain. Schmid said the rookie should be able to return to practice Tuesday.
• Galaxy star Landon Donovan is listed as questionable with a bone bruise on his left knee but told reporters recently that he'll be available. David Beckham (left ankle soreness) is also listed as questionable.
• Sounders FC's regular-season finale last year was also at The Home Depot Center, but that time midfielder Mauro Rosales suffered a knee injury that kept him out of the playoffs. So has that come back to mind this year?
"When you play, there's always the risk that something might happen," Schmid said. "When you don't play, something could happen at practice. You don't know. You can't go into the game with fear or anything like that."
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @joshuamayers