TUKWILA, Wash. – “We’re ready.” Such was the message from Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid on the eve of his team’s home playoff game tonight.
Seattle hosts the first leg of a two-game, aggregate-goals Western Conference semifinal against Real Salt Lake, an opponent that ended the Sounders’ season in the same round last year.
Time for revenge? Well, yes and no.
“It’s not about payback. It’s about advancing,” Schmid said. “We’ve got too much to think about to think about payback and getting even and all that. All we want to do is advance. Advancing will give us payback.”
Last year, the series was just about decided in the first leg as RSL walloped the Sounders 3-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
It was a nearly insurmountable deficit that Seattle couldn’t make up despite a 2-0 win in the second leg.
“We got spanked,” midfielder Brad Evans said of the playoff opener in 2011. “That’s still fresh in everyone’s mind. That’s something that can’t happen.”
Motivation will also be drawn from this season. The Sounders didn’t score a goal in three games against Real Salt Lake this season – a 1-0 loss and two scoreless ties. Seattle’s active goal-less drought is at 299 minutes head-to-head, dating to last year’s playoffs.
RSL has only lost once at CenturyLink Field since winning the MLS Cup here in 2009.
“I’ve always felt over my career,” Schmid said, “that it’s easier to get prepared and to get up for teams that maybe you haven’t done as (well) against, because your team is going to be motivated and focused.”
“We know we can beat this team,” said defender Jeff Parke, referencing the home win in the playoffs last year.
Sounders forward Eddie Johnson (adductor strain) hasn’t been ruled out of tonight’s game and his availability, most likely as a reserve, if anything, will be determined before kickoff. Johnson, who suffered the injury in Sunday’s regular-season finale, is still expected to be ready for the second leg of the series on Thursday. Defenders Leo Gonzalez (hamstring) and Patrick Ianni (calf) will not be available for tonight’s game, Schmid said.