By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
TUKWILA — While the Seattle Sounders have been off for the past couple of weeks, other Major League Soccer teams have been active and rushing toward them.
Sporting Kansas City has pulled even in a Supporters Shield race the Sounders once led by 10 points, while Real Salt Lake has moved to within six points in the Western Conference.
None of this is because the Sounders have cooled. It’s just that they haven’t played a league game since July 13, when they beat rival Portland 2-0. Therefore, their point total has remained a stationary target.
“We’re seeing everybody else collect points and play games,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “So we want to get back out there and get some points.”
Over the two weeks since beating the Timbers, Seattle’s only action has been the July 19 friendly with Tottenham.
Other MLS teams have been more active. SKC is even in points, but has played three more games. RSL lurks six points behind, but has played two more games.
“I look at the points-per-game totals, and not really the point totals,” Schmid said. “And when you look at the points-per-game totals and you look at third, fourth, fifth, sixth in the West versus third, fourth, fifth, sixth in the East, there’s a pretty substantial difference right now. And it just shows I think the West is very competitive, I think the quality of play in the West is very strong.”
Seattle returns to league and conference play at 7 p.m. Monday against one of those teams clustered in the middle of the Western standings: the Los Angeles Galaxy, which is tied for the fifth and final playoff spot.
Like Seattle, Los Angeles has been a hot team, having had an eight-game unbeaten streak snapped July 19 at Kansas City. Also like the Sounders, the Galaxy’s point total can be misleading due to playing relatively few matches — in LA’s case, a league-low 17 games.
“Their team has a lot of quality on it,” Seattle goals leader Clint Dempsey said. “… They’re a team that has won some MLS Cups, and anytime you play against them it’s always an opportunity to test yourself against some of the best players in MLS. But also it’s an opportunity for us to continue trying to get as many points as possible and finish this season as high as possible in the table.”
The Sounders still top the table with an average of 2.11 points per game. Second-place SKC averages 1.81. The Galaxy are fifth with an average of 1.59, and that number has been climbing as their roster has stabilized.
“They were missing people at various times,” Schmid said. “They were missing Omar (Gonzalez) for a period of time. Landon (Donovan) had some injuries this year and missed a little bit of time as well. They’ve brought in some new guys. … That’s why maybe people don’t look at them the same way. But I look at them the same way because (coach Bruce Arena) is always going to have a team that’s competitive and is going to find a way to get results.”
Schmid and Arena are the top two coaches in MLS wins with 199 and 166 wins respectively. That also puts Schmid is in position to reach a nice round milestone with his next victory.
“That’s not something that I consciously think about,” he said. “It’s just a reflection that I’ve been blessed by having a lot of good players play for me, and good players make it easier to be successful as a coach. I’ve been really pleased with the guys who have played for me and the associations I’ve been able to form with those guys over that period of time. And when you win more than you lose, it always makes those bonds a little more special.”