The first head-to-head match to settle the Major League Soccer Supporters’ Shield gained some added spark Friday as Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid responded to earlier comments by Los Angeles Galaxy star Landon Donovan.
Donovan had been quoted on MLSsoccer.com saying the Sounders “have done, obviously, a great job putting a lot of importance into the (U.S.) Open Cup over the years, but they’ve struggled (to win championships) in the league and in the playoffs. … What we do here (in Los Angeles) is win trophies, and this is a chance on Saturday to win another trophy.”
Friday in his final pregame press conference, Schmid turned an unrelated question into a response.
“I think Landon was a little bit critical of us, saying we don’t win trophies: They win trophies; we only win the U.S. Open Cup,” Schmid said. “I think the Open Cup is a trophy. I’m sorry the Galaxy hasn’t won a lot of them.”
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Seattle has won four U.S. Open Cups over its six seasons in MLS, while the Galaxy has won two over 19 seasons.
However, the Sounders have no other major trophies, while the Galaxy has four MLS Cups and four Supporters’ Shields.
Los Angeles needs a win Saturday at CenturyLink Field to claim an unprecedented fifth Shield, annually awarded to the team with the best regular-season record. The Sounders need a win or a draw for their first.
“It’s the first time ever that the Supporters’ Shield has been on the line between two teams that are contesting it in the last game,” Schmid said. “So what do I know or (L.A. coach Bruce Arena) know? We didn’t like the two-game stretch at the beginning of the year, but obviously the schedule-makers got it right.”
Thirty-three games into a 34-game season, the Sounders and Galaxy are even with 61 points. Seattle holds the tiebreaker: wins. The clubs extended their neck-and-neck race Sunday in Southern California when the Sounders came from two goals down for a 2-2 draw.
The deadlock will be broken Saturday at CenturyLink Field, which will be open to its full capacity, and in front of a national NBC audience.
“It sets an even better stage for us,” Seattle defender DeAndre Yedlin said. “I know we’re going to have every fan — besides L.A. fans — behind us, and it would be awesome to be able to raise the trophy in front of them. … Every game we play at home, it’s amazing energy; and I’m sure this one will be even more than normal because there’s so much at stake.”
Along with the Supporters’ Shield, the winner gets top playoff seeding in the Western Conference, the right to open against the lowest-qualifying team in the conference semifinals, the right to play the deciding game at home during the aggregate-score playoff series, and the right to play MLS Cup on its home pitch if it advances that far.
Other Saturday games will determine the third-, fourth- and fifth-place finishers in the West, as well as whether Vancouver or Portland will miss the playoffs with a sixth-place finish.
The Whitecaps eliminate the Timbers with a win over Colorado, a Portland loss to Dallas or if both teams tie.
Dallas clinches third place with a win over Portland, while a Dallas draw or loss gives third to Real Salt Lake.
After their high-noon showdown, the Sounders and Galaxy will have to wait a few hours to learn their playoff-opening opponents, as the Timbers visit Dallas at 5:30 p.m., and the Rapids visit Vancouver at 7 p.m.
The fourth- and fifth-place finishers in each division will meet in a single play-in match for the right to face the top seed in the conference semifinal series. The second and third seeds meet in the other semifinal.