By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
If Chivas USA was desperate the last time it faced Sounders FC, it must have shifted to pure Code Red for the rematch today.
On Aug. 25, the Goats were seventh in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference, 10 points out of playoff position.
Then they lost to Seattle, 6-2. They followed that game with a 3-3 draw at New England and a 4-0 loss at San Jose. “It’s been a brutal two weeks,” Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy told MLSsoccer.com.
As they prepare for their 1 p.m. first kick at CenturyLink Field, the Goats have dropped to eighth in the West. And although they have crept to nine points out of playoff position, they also are two weeks closer to the end of the season, and that much more desperate because of it.
“They’re going to be highly motivated,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “Mathematically, they’re still a team that has a shot at the playoffs if they can get the points out of their games in hand. So they’re the same as they were in (the previous game): They’re still a very dangerous team. We should have confidence based upon (the previous game), but confidence means you still have to work hard.”
The Goats entered their first game against the Sounders with the fewest goals and fewest shots in MLS, but with a defense that usually kept them close. Against the Sounders and since, Chivas adopted a more offensive mentality, but at the price of gaps in its defense.
Over those three games, Chivas has scored five goals and allowed 13.
“They’ve shown a capacity to be able to score goals,” Schmid said. “They obviously allowed goals, and we have to continue to exploit that.”
Last time out, the primary exploiter was Sounders forward Fredy Montero, who recorded half of Seattle’s six goals for the first hat trick of his career and the fourth in the club’s four seasons.
“We know every single player on that team,” Montero said this week. “At the same time, we know that every single game is different.”
Schmid had no complaints about the way his offense took advantage of the spread out Chivas defense. But he wasn’t happy about the way his own club lost its shape as midfielders raced forward but were less vigilant about hurrying back.
He doesn’t want a repeat of that today — especially because the Sounders have their own incentives to add as many points as possible.
Since that game two weeks ago at Chivas, Seattle has slipped two points further behind league-leading San Jose and is now nine points off the pace with a potential 24 remaining on the table. The Sounders also need the full three points today to move into second place in the West, passing Real Salt Lake, which lost at Houston on Thursday.
Schmid stressed Friday that the No. 2 seed earns home pitch advantage over the No. 3 seed in the concluding game of their aggregate-score playoff series. Also this season, the MLS Cup final will be played at the home of the higher-seeded club.
“A huge difference,” he said. “You’re looking at your positioning within the playoffs. I still think playing the second game at home is a benefit … and you have a better chance of (playing) a home game for MLS Cup. So, points are important and trying to get as many points as possible (is) important.”