MLS Soccer

Sounders coach Sigi Schmid thinks MLS conference finals are great for the league

When Major League Soccer’s two-week playoff break ends Sunday, Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid figures it will end with a bang.

Not only will the Western Conference final pair the league’s top two regular-season finishers — No. 1 Seattle against the No. 2 Los Angeles Galaxy — but there’s plenty to like about the Eastern Conference pairing of the New England Revolution and the New York Red Bulls.

“It’s good because they’re all major markets — we’re calling Seattle a major market,” Schmid said. “… It’s great. Great for the league, great for the fans of the league.”

The populations of New York and New England could help compensate for the Eastern pairing’s relative weakness in seeding. In the semifinals, No. 2 New England took care of business against No. 3 Columbus, while No. 4 New York bumped off top-seeded D.C. United.

Still, Schmid believes the Revs and Red Bulls will put on a good show.

“It’s an interesting one because I think New England is a little bit more of a younger team at this stage,” Schmid said. “But certainly the addition of Jermaine Jones has solidified them at midfield, given them a different look, different perspective. It’s given more freedom I think to Lee Nguyen to get forward. But New York is a team that on their good days, they’re very good. Sometimes that consistency hasn’t always been there, but they only need to bring the consistency over a two-game series. So I think it’s going to be an interesting series. I think it’s one where there’s going to be a lot of goals.”

Both conference finals open Sunday. The Red Bulls and Revs take the first kick at 10:30 a.m. from Harrison, New Jersey, before the Galaxy and Sounders get going at 2 p.m. from Carson, California.

Schmid sees plenty for the fans to savor in his team’s series, too — starting with each side’s high-profile, high-scoring tandems. Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey combined for 32 goals and 23 assists for Seattle, while Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan combined for 29 goals and 33 assists for L.A.

“I’d say it’s a little bit different because Landon plays a little bit more on the left, where in some of the games me and Oba have been more of a partnership, where we’re always connected,” Dempsey said. “They still find each other well in the game. Me and Oba, we do a little bit more of the give-and-go’s and link-up play, overlapping and stuff through the middle. But they have a great team, have some great players on it. They’re also a team that has a lot of quality, and we’re looking forward to the challenge of seeing who’ll be the best through these next two games.”

The Eastern Conference final will resolve Nov. 29 at New England, while the Western Conference final concludes Nov. 30 at CenturyLink Field. The Sounders-Galaxy winner will host the MLS Cup on Dec. 7.

“Dempsey-Landon, Keane-Oba — all those subplots are interesting,” Schmid said. “But at the end of the day it’s two pretty consistent franchises playing off against each other. ... When you look at points earned over (the past six seasons) we’re in the top two. When you look at goals scored over that time I think we’re in the top two. I think there’s a lot of comparisons that way, so I think it’s good that the two good franchises are playing against each other.”

ADDED TIME

Seven former Chivas USA players were chosen Wednesday in the MLS dispersal draft, however the Sounders passed when their turn came with the 19th pick. “I think we talked to one team about trying to move up,” Schmid said. “But it was something ... if it made sense. But we weren’t going to go crazy trying to get there.” … MLS will announce its 2014 award finalists on Thursday. … The Sounders are off Thursday. They will resume training Friday in Southern California.

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