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Originally published November 3, 2013 at 6:38 PM | Page modified November 3, 2013 at 8:52 PM

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Sounders’ comeback task on the road is hard, but not unheard of

Having to go on the road and overcome a playoff deficit is a difficult assignment for Sounders FC, but similar comebacks have happened twice in the past three years in MLS and three times in the last eight such occurrences.

Seattle Times staff reporter


Sounders FC @ Portland 8 p.m., NBCSN

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The Sounders are the 12th team in MLS playoff history to lose the first game of a two-leg, aggregate-goals series at home.

Surprisingly, it hasn’t been quite the fatal blow one might expect for lower seeds having to go on the road with a deficit to overcome, especially the past few years.

The 2012 Los Angeles Galaxy and 2010 San Jose Earthquakes are recent successful examples of what Seattle is trying to achieve in the Western Conference semifinals: coming back against rival Portland following Saturday’s 2-1 loss at CenturyLink Field.

Going back to 2006, three of the last eight teams to lose their first leg at home have still advanced to the conference finals.

All three were No. 4 seeds in the West upsetting No. 1 seeds, like the No. 4 Sounders against the No. 1 Timbers. All three lost the first game by a single goal, which only further proves how important Osvaldo Alonso’s 90th-minute goal was in cutting the deficit to one.

At the very least, it proves a comeback is very possible Thursday at Jeld-Wen Field.

Motivation, of course, won’t be hard to come by as the Sounders’ season has been pushed to the brink.

“You have to go out there and play your best if you’re trying to stay alive,” Clint Dempsey said. “You don’t want to go home; you don’t want it to end.”

Beating the Timbers on their own turf will take no small effort.

Portland finished tied for the best home record in MLS this season and hasn’t lost at Jeld-Wen since March, an 11-0-4 run there since a Week 2 loss to Montreal. Seattle, on the other hand, has lost its last three road games, getting outscored 8-1.

“We’re confident that no one is going to come there and beat us,” said Timbers forward Ryan Johnson.

“Confident” was a word used in both locker rooms after the first leg, but results paint a difference picture — Portland being on a 6-0-3 run since early September and Seattle having gone 1-5-1 since early October.

When Timbers coach Caleb Porter was told of the confidence expressed by his Seattle counterpart, Sigi Schmid, he told “What’s he going to say, that they’re not confident? Of course he’s going to say they’re confident.

“I’m confident too, and of course I’m going to say that, but I have every reason to be confident.”


• The Sounders’ comeback attempt will have to happen without one of their top scorers. Lamar Neagle, who had a career-high eight goals in the regular season, will be suspended for Thursday’s second leg after earning his second yellow card of the playoffs for a tackle on Portland’s Diego Valeri.

Neagle was cautioned in last week’s knockout round for shoving Colorado defender German Mera into his own goalkeeper.

“The first one was stupid on my part,” said Neagle. “The second one I don’t think was a yellow at all. It is what it is. I can’t do anything about it now.”

Schmid, asked of the suspension, said he hoped the team could get forward Obafemi Martins back from a groin injury that has kept him out the past five games.

“Lamar does a lot of work for us,” the coach added. “He hasn’t had the production, necessarily, but he has gotten close and has been unlucky at times. For sure we are going to miss his work rate, but we will figure it out.”

• The Sounders’ 20 shots Saturday were second-most in the team’s postseason history, behind the 26 Seattle had in the second leg of the 2011 conference semifinals against RSL.

Comeback company
Three MLS teams have come back to advance in a two-game, aggregate-goal series after losing the first leg at home.
Year, teamOpponentFirst legAggregate score
2006 ColoradoDallasL, 2-1T, 4-4*
2010 San JoseNew YorkL, 1-0W, 3-2
2012 Los AngelesSan JoseL, 1-0W, 3-2
* Rapids advanced on penalty kicks

Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or On Twitter @joshuamayers.

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