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Can struggling Sounders end skid?

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By Don Ruiz
The News Tribune
SEATTLE -- Supporters Shield and the Western Conference title aren't available to the Seattle Sounders as they close their fifth MLS regular season tonight against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
However, for the fifth consecutive season, the Sounders will finish atop the league in home attendance; and for the fifth time they will set a league record in the process.
More than 66,000 tickets already have been distributed for the match, and that assures Seattle of topping its league-record average of 43,144 per home game, set last season. That follows MLS records of 38,498 in 2011, 36,173 in 2010, and 30,897 in the 2009 expansion season.
"Our fans have been amazing," general manager Adrian Hanauer said. "It's been sort of humbling and just made me really proud to be part of this community to see the support that the players and coaches get in good times and in bad. It's been a little bit of a roller-coaster season, but our fans have stuck behind us; and when we take a goal at home and they're as loud as ever, or louder, it means a lot."
This regular-season finale will mark the fourth match this year when the entire seating area of CenturyLink Field will be open. That is one more than in 2012, and the extra game was added in part to help the Sounders continue their record-setting run.
Hanauer was asked if something similar might be done next season, and if the record run can be extended indefinitely.
"I have my doubts," he said. "Can we keep it going one more year, two more years, three more years? We hope."
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid hopes his club can feed off of the large crowd on its way to a win.
Those full three points would assure the Sounders of no worse than third place in the West and a direct entry into the conference semifinals. With a draw or loss, Seattle would finish fourth or fifth in the West and would begin its postseason with a midweek knockout match for the right to face the No. 1 seed in the semifinals.
Los Angeles has similar incentives. A loss to Seattle would send the Galaxy into the knockout match.
Regardless of seeding, the Sounders would like to use the final game of the regular season to snuff their four-game losing streak and six-game winless streak.
"Our home fans always give us a boost," Schmid said. "It's been obviously this last set of games -- these last four games -- haven't been very good for us. We want to get back onto a positive role and show everybody the type of soccer that we're capable of playing, and we need a bounce or two to go in our direction. Getting the first goal would be nice: We haven't had that for a while. … I really think the energy comes from our fans, for sure; but it also has to come from ourselves because we know we want to play better than we've played the last four games."
That energy from huge home crowds has shown up on the CenturyLink Field scoreboard. When playing MLS matches before home crowds of 40,000 or more, the Sounders are 8-0-2 with a plus-16 goal differential. When playing before crowds of 55,000 or larger, they are 6-0 and have outscored their opponents 14-1.
In the three home games played in a fully opened stadium already this season, the Sounders beat Portland, 1-0, before a club-record 67,385; beat Real Salt Lake 2-0 before 55,107; and beat Vancouver 3-2 before 53,679.
"You play 34 games in a season, and six or seven probably stick out when you think four or five years back; and these are those games that you remember," midfielder Brad Evans said. "It's the stadiums that are sold out. It's big games like this. The bottom line: It's (like) a playoff game, so we need to treat it as such."
Story tags » Sounders FC

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