MLS Soccer

Road-weary LA Galaxy open title defense in Seattle

The Galaxy went 2-6-9 on the road this season, something the Sounders hope plays into their favor Wednesday night in their playoff match.
The Galaxy went 2-6-9 on the road this season, something the Sounders hope plays into their favor Wednesday night in their playoff match. The Associated Press

The numbers say the Los Angeles Galaxy is a bad road team.

It’s not just that they’re relatively stronger at home. Their record says they’re actually bad on the road — one of the worst teams in Major League Soccer.

During the regular season, the Galaxy went 2-9-6 away from StubHub Center. No team in the Western Conference won fewer road games. In all of MLS, only the Chicago Fire did worse away from home, and they set the bar at absolute ground level with no wins away from home.

The Galaxy’s road futility becomes a do-or-die issue Wednesday, when it visits CenturyLink Field for a knockout match with the Seattle Sounders. The conference semifinals await the winner, and the offseason awaits the loser.

CenturyLink Field was the site of one of the Galaxy’s road draws: 1-1 on Oct. 4. That one seemed just minutes away from becoming a rare road win for L.A. until Seattle forward Chad Barrett scored the equalizer in stoppage time.

Los Angeles’ road staggers are a rare blemish for a club with five MLS Cups, four Supporters’ Shields and seven Western Conference championships.

The Galaxy’s road to its 2014 MLS Cup also went through Seattle. Los Angeles edged the Sounders in the Western Conference final on away goals, despite a 2-1 loss at CenturyLink.

That marked the third time Seattle and Los Angeles have met in the MLS postseason, and the third time that Sounders’ season ended while the Galaxy’s season continued.

2-9-6 The Galaxy’s record on the road this season.

“That’s the reality of it,” Seattle captain Brad Evans said Tuesday. “That’s the current label. It is what it is. Obviously, they’ve got our number in big games. That’s been the playoffs over the course of the last (six years). For us, we’ve got to try to rewrite the script.”

The Sounders may have to do that without defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, who missed his second day of training Tuesday after suffering an undisclosed injury in Seattle’s season-ending 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake on Sunday. However, Schmid said Alonso hasn’t been ruled out and that designed player Nelson Valdez is available after missing back-to-back matches with a calf strain.

Seattle also should have an advantage in freshness, as they have remained home for two training days since the RSL result, while Los Angeles flew home from Kansas City on Sunday evening before heading up the coast to Seattle on Tuesday.

Those regular-season finales assigned this knockout match to Seattle. Both teams ended the season with 51 points, but the final day of the season gave the Sounders their 15th win, one better than L.A. in the first seeding tie-breaker. The Galaxy remained stuck on 14 wins with back-to-back season-ending losses.

However, Schmid thinks regular season form is as meaningless to whatever plays out Wednesday as is Los Angeles’ road record.

“You can throw all that stuff out the window when it comes to the playoffs,” he said. “I’ve seen teams be on a really good streak and get knocked out early on, and I’ve seen teams be on a poor streak and all of a sudden they put a streak together. We’re in a cup competition: It’s a one-off game, it is a do-or-die game, and anything can happen.”

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com

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SOUNDERS GAMEDAY

SEATTLE SOUNDERS (15-13-6; 51 POINTS)

VS. LOS ANGELES GALAXY (14-11-9; 51 POINTS)

7 p.m., CenturyLink Field

TV: JOEtv, Root Sports (outside of Seattle). Radio: 97.3 FM.

Head to head: Los Angeles leads the regular-season series 8-4-6. The series is even, 3-3-3, in Seattle. The Galaxy won its two home meetings this season, 1-0, in April and, 3-1, in August. The teams played to a 1-1 draw Oct. 4 at CenturyLink Field. The teams have met three times in the playoffs, with the Galaxy eliminating the Sounders each time: 2010, 2012, 2014.

Notes: This is a knockout match, with the winner advancing to the Western Conference semifinal round. … There must be a winner. If the game is tied at the end of regulation, there will be 30 minutes of extra time. If the score remains even, the winner will be determined by penalty kicks. … Both teams are playing in their seventh consecutive postseason — the longest runs in MLS. … The Sounders ended the regular season with an eight-game unbeaten streak (4-0-4). The Galaxy went 1-4-2 over its last seven, including 0-for-October at 0-2-1. … The Sounders’ regular season leaders were Obafemi Martins, 15 goals; and Clint Dempsey, 10 assists. Robbie Keane led L.A. with 20 goals and eight assists. … Seattle midfielder Osvaldo Alonso is questionable with an undisclosed injury. Designated player Nelson Valdez (calf) is expected to return after missing two games. … This will mark the first playoff appearances for Seattle midseason acquisions Valdez and Andreas Ivanschitz, and also for Los Angeles designated players Steven Gerrard and Giovani dos Santos. … Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei posted career bests with 10 shutouts, a 1.08 goals-against average, and a club-record 111 saves. … The referee is Jair Marrufo.

Quote: “We have L.A. here. That’s what everybody wants to see. … They have their three DPs, we have our three DPs. We have great depth, they have great depth. Sigi vs. Bruce. There are so many matchups here. … Every player on the field has an intense matchup. It’s going to be a lot of physical play going on.” — Seattle forward Chad Barrett, who played with L.A. in 2011-12.

Next: The season ends for the loser. The winner opens the Western Conference semifinal series at home Sunday against either top-seeded Dallas or second-seeded Vancouver.

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com

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