Sounders’ season unsteady on the field, but not in the stands
Despite inconsistent play, the Sounders are set to break the league average attendance record yet again. More than 66,000 tickets have been sold for Sunday’s regular-season finale against the L.A. Galaxy.
Seattle Times staff reporter
L.A. Galaxy @ Sounders FC,6 p.m., ESPN
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TUKWILA – If ever there was an ideal scenario for a Sounders FC bounce-back, it would undoubtedly involve a packed-to-the-brim CenturyLink Field.
When full, the atmosphere and support compares favorably with any league in the world, and that’s exactly what Seattle will get in its regular-season finale.
More than 66,000 tickets have been sold for Sunday’s 6 p.m. home game against the Los Angeles Galaxy, meaning a raucous scene is in store as the Sounders look to maximize their playoff seeding and gather some momentum before the postseason.
“It gives you a boost going into the game, for sure,” said midfielder Brad Evans. “Those are always emotional games. ... You think four or five years back, and those are games that you remember.”
The support has become expected here, but it’s no less remarkable.
The Fan Appreciation Day crowd will be one of the three largest in team history for an MLS game and also guarantee an average attendance of greater than 44,000. That will set another league record, which the Sounders have done in each of their five seasons.
“Can we keep it going indefinitely? I have my doubts,” said Adrian Hanauer, part owner and general manager. “Can we keep it going for one more year? Two more years? Three more years? We hope.”
“Our fans have been amazing. It’s been sort of humbling and just made me really proud to be part of this community to see the support that the team gets. ... Obviously, it’s been a little bit of a roller coaster season, but our fans have stuck behind us.”
Worldwide, Seattle’s average attendance would rank second in the top leagues in Italy, France, Scotland and Holland; third in Spain; sixth in England; and ninth in Germany.
“The (66,000) people that are going to be coming to the game, that’s my motivation and that for most of the guys on the team,” said goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann. “There is no more motivation you need than that.”
The Sounders have rewarded that support with one of their best home seasons. They are 10-2-4 at CenturyLink, which included a franchise record 14-game unbeaten streak, third-longest in MLS this year.
Seattle has secured 34 of its 51 points at home, already the team’s highest percentage for a season. A win against the Galaxy would give the Sounders their most points and their highest points-per-game average while matching their most wins at home.
On a wider scale, Sunday has massive implications when it comes to playoff seeding. Beating Los Angeles would give Seattle a direct berth to the Western Conference semifinals, thus avoiding the play-in game between the No. 4 and 5 seeds.
With a tie or loss, however, the Sounders could end up in a play-in game on the road — meaning this could be the team’s last action in front of the home fans this season.
It could have been worse, though. If Seattle hadn’t received help from the Galaxy last week, this might have been a must-win game just to get into the playoffs.
“Maybe it doesn’t become our MLS Cup,” said Evans, “but we have to treat it as a playoff game.”
• Clint Dempsey (shoulder), Eddie Johnson (sports hernia) and Djimi Traore (knee) practiced this week and look to be available Sunday. Indications from coach Sigi Schmid were that Obafemi Martins (groin) and Leo Gonzalez (rest) won’t play, in order to get strong as possible for the playoffs.
• Schmid didn’t offer many lineup details, including who his starting goalkeeper would be, but did note the team will field yet another combination.
“Believe me,” Schmid said, “you don’t go into a season and say, ‘OK, let’s see if we can come up with 33 different lineups for 34 games.’ ”
• Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Adam Moffat and Traore are on yellow-card warning. The players would just be fined — not suspended — upon their next caution.
• Federal Way native Lamar Neagle was been named Sounders FC’s Humanitarian of the Year.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @joshuamayers