By John Boyle Herald Columnist
SEATTLE — It’s a pretty desperate situation these Seattle Sounders find themselves in tonight.
Simply put, they need to pull off a minor miracle against the L.A. Galaxy or see their season end just short of the first MLS Cup appearance in franchise history.
So, do desperate times call for desperate measures? Maybe, or perhaps this situation calls for a sense of humor.
As Austrian goalkeeper Michael Gspurning put it: “Wir haben keine Chance, aber die wollen wir nutzen.”
That translates to, “We don’t have a chance, but we want to use it,” which about perfectly sums up what the Sounders face today.
Having lost 3-0 to the Galaxy last weekend, Seattle now needs to win by four tonight to advance to the MLS Cup, or win by three and win a penalty-kick shootout. So no, the Sounders don’t have much of a chance, at least not a very good one, but that doesn’t mean players have given up hope.
Yes, logic says beating a team by three or four goals is nearly an impossible task, especially when the opposing team knows it can sit back, play defense and advance with even a two-goal loss, but one of the biggest reasons why we love sports, why we keep coming back, is that they so often defy logic and leave us scratching our heads in disbelief.
So, forgetting about logic for a moment, let’s take a look at four reasons why the Sounders are going to pull off the (almost) impossible and get the four goals they need to advance to the MLS Cup.
1. Because big crowds lead to big wins
Why this makes sense: Four times this season the Sounders have had crowds exceeding 40,000 and in those games Seattle is 3-0-1, having outscored its opponents 10-1. Attendance is expected to be well over that number this evening, which is good news for a team that already beat the Galaxy 4-0, Vancouver 2-0 and Portland 3-0 in front of large crowds at CenturyLink Field.
Why it doesn’t make sense: If ever there was an MLS team built to handle hostile environments, it’s the Galaxy. L.A.’s big three — David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane — have as much big-game experience as just about anyone in the league, so while some MLS teams might be a bit intimidated playing in front of a big crowd, this probably isn’t one of them.
Why to believe anyway: Because, gosh darn it, sometimes a sample size of three or four games is just going to have to cut it. Remember, we’re past logic here.
2. Because Seattle already beat L.A. 4-0 once this year
Why this makes sense: This one is simple enough. The last time the Sounders played host to the Galaxy, the result was the kind of blowout Seattle needs tonight. If Seattle could do this once to L.A. why can’t it happen again?
Why it doesn’t make sense: Well, to answer the question above question, a blowout win is a lot tougher this time around because the situation is much, much different. For starters, the Galaxy is healthier and playing much better than it was in August, and secondly, L.A. comes into this game knowing exactly what it needs.
When the Galaxy fell behind to Seattle in a league game, the strategy was to try to come back and tie the score or take the lead. This time around, L.A. would be just fine parking the bus, so to speak, for 90 minutes, even if Seattle scores a goal or two.
“It’s a totally different situation,” Gspurning said. “L.A. is coming (in) knowing that we will throw everything forward. … Maybe it would be better for us if we didn’t have that result, because then they might take it easier. But we had that result in the league, so they were warned and they know, ‘Oh, we shouldn’t go into the game too easy, because Seattle is a tough team to play, especially here.’”
Why to believe anyway: Because even if the situation is different, Sounders players have in the backs of their minds the memory of that performance against L.A. Sure it will be harder this time, but it can’t hurt to know they can create offense against the Galaxy.
“We know we can create chances against them and that helps our confidence,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said.
3. Because Sweden says it’s possible
Why this makes sense: If coming back from 3-0 down in 90 minutes sounds tough, imagine trying to overcome a 4-0 deficit in 30 minutes against Germany, one of the best teams in the world. That’s what Sweden did earlier this year in a World Cup qualifier, just the latest example of how crazy soccer can be sometimes.
Now what does this have to do with Seattle trying to come back on L.A.? Well, not a whole lot other than the fact that Sounders defender Adam Johansson was on the bench for Sweden in that game against Germany.
Why it doesn’t make sense: Because Sweden coming back to tie Germany has pretty much nothing to do with this game, and because, by the way, Seattle doesn’t have Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Why to believe anyway: Because until he shows us otherwise, we might as well assume that Johansson, even from the bench, has some sort of magical powers that can spark even the most unlikely comebacks. Again, we’ve thrown logic out the window here, folks.
4. Because of Tanzania!
Why this makes sense: If you’ve been to CenturyLink Field in the past few months, you’ve no doubt noticed the very large advertisements for Tanzania painted in the tunnels on the north end of the stadium. Since those were put in the stadium, some weird stuff has been happening, almost always in favor of the home teams.
My friend Alex Akita, who runs a sports blog called Seattlesportsnet.com (you should really check it out if you like sports, sophomoric humor and Saved by the Bell references), first brought up the Tanzania Effect early in the fall when he noticed that the Huskies, Sounders and Seahawks were all enjoying success at home. And wouldn’t you know it, the Sounders’ first league game after the Tanzania ads went up was the 4-0 win over L.A. Seattle is 5-1-1 at home going back to that game, having outscored opponents 15-4. Throw in the fact that the Huskies went 5-1 at their temporary home this year, and that the Seahawks are so far undefeated at home, including some improbable finishes, and maybe, just maybe, there’s something to this Tanzania thing.
Why it doesn’t make sense: Um, because in no way, shape or form does it make sense that a couple of advertisements are impacting the results of sporting events. I mean, come on, how does a mural with Mt. Kilimanjaro or an elephant change the result of a football or soccer game?
Why to believe anyway: Because as unlikely as it is that Tanzania can be affecting the outcome of games, is it really that much more unbelievable than replacement refs making a dubious call to secure a controversial win for the Seahawks. Or the Patriots inexplicably leaving Sidney Rice, Seattle’s best receiver, wide open in the final moment of a game. Or Husky fans storming the field after home wins over Stanford and Oregon State (seriously, it’s Oregon State, people). I’m telling you, weird things are happening at CenturyLink Field this fall. So why not a little bit more crazy tonight?
No, the Sounders don’t have much of a chance, but they still want to use it.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.