There's still a lot of soccer to go in a regular-season that reaches almost to Halloween. However, any clubs even in the standings at the end of the 34-match marathon will be separated by new criteria that reward offense.
"A team like L.A. that scores a lot of goals and gives up a lot of goals gains an advantage," Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said Friday. "So, you can actually have a negative goal differential and you can be seeded ahead of somebody you're tied with because you scored goals. Obviously, that's the emphasis the league wants to put on it. But it's not going to change how we approach a game on a game-by-game basis."
In a procedure announced last week, ties in playoff positioning will be broken first by most total goals scored, then by goal differential. After that, in order: fewest disciplinary points, most road goals scored, greatest road-goal differential, most home goals scored, greatest home goal differential, and finally coin toss (two teams) or drawing lots (three or more).
Going into this weekend, the Galaxy has 44 goals, the Sounders have 32 and the Whitecaps 28. However, Seattle's goal differential is plus-8, L.A.'s is plus-4, and Vancouver's is minus-3.
"For us right now, the thing is points and not to be tied with anybody," Schmid said. "So (the Vancouver game offers) three very important points. It's a West Coast team, it's a rival, it's a six-point game, we're tied with them right now, we've got some games in hand. But if we can get the three-point cushion and keep those games in hand, it makes it all the better."
This season there is a heightened advantage to third place over fourth or fifth, because those final two qualifying clubs in each conference meet in a single loser-out game for the right to face the conference's top seed. Meanwhile, the second- and third-place finishers meet in a two-game, home-and-away, aggregate-score series.
Midfielder Mario Martinez, acquired on loan from Real Espana of Honduras on Aug. 1, participated in his first Sounders training session Friday and is expected to play in his first match this weekend.
"You can tell he's got a nice touch," Schmid said. "He wasn't afraid of asking for the ball when he's out on the field. We've got to give him a little bit of time to acclimate and get used to everything. Obviously, we've got our game (today), and then we've got a reserve game on Sunday, so I'm sure he'll get on the field."
Martinez said he is ready despite a busy schedule that sent him to London with the Honduras Olympic team before traveling to a friendly with Boca Juniors on Wednesday in Florida.
"I would love to play, but that's really a technical decision," he said through an interpreter. "If given the opportunity, I would do the very best that I can, but yes: I'm ready. They brought me here and they're going to give me a chance, so there's something that they had to have seen in me. I would think that that's I'm a good shooter, I'm good on assists, I see the game well. I'm hoping that's what I can help this team with."
Sounders rookie Andrew Duran has returned to Seattle for surgery on a torn ACL suffered while on loan with the NASL-Atlanta Silverbacks. The Silverbacks also have announced the release of midfielder Raphael Cox, a Tacoma native who also played for the University of Washington, Tacoma Tide and Real Salt Lake. Schmid has become a grandfather. His son Kurt, a Sounders assistant, and daughter-in-law Joanne became parents of 10-pound, 7-ounce daughter Reagan Marie.
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