TUKWILA, Wash. – Sigi Schmid still isn’t quite sure how his pregame speech will sound tonight.
Does the coach load it up with hyperbole before Sounders FC’s winner-take-all second leg of a Western Conference semifinal against Real Salt Lake?
Does he keep it businesslike, treating it like any other game?
Somewhere in between?
“I never know,” Schmid said. “Sometimes that changes on the afternoon as I think about it. … You have to see. (Tuesday) was filled with election news, so maybe it will have to do with the election.”
Schmid, coincidentally, won an MLS Cup in the last election year in 2008 with the Columbus Crew. For a Sounders team with a similar goal, games don’t get any bigger than the one that kicks off at 7 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The aggregate-goals series is tied 0-0 after Friday’s first leg.
“I know during the season (media) like to say, ‘This has got to be a must-win game.’ No, Thursday is a must-win game,” said Schmid. “It’s a definite must-win game. Whether you win it on (penalty kicks), whether you win it in overtime, whether you win it 1-0, whether you win it 3-2 – it doesn’t matter. It’s a game you have to win at the end of the day.”
And to win its first playoff series in four tries, Seattle would do well to end a 389-minute scoreless streak against Salt Lake. The drought dates to the 2011 playoffs after getting shut out in all four games of the series this year.
The uncertain status of Mauro Rosales makes things more difficult. The midfielder has led the Sounders with 13 assists the past two seasons, but suffered a hamstring-related injury in Game 1. He traveled with the team to Salt Lake, but his availability won’t be determined until today.
Rosales’ loss would be mitigated, however, by the expected return of forward Eddie Johnson, who missed the first game in the series with an adductor strain. Johnson, who led Seattle with 14 goals, said there is no doubt he’ll be available.
“I’ve come too far to not be a part of this special thing we’ve got going on as a team,” he said. “We know how much it means to our fans and our organization in getting to the next round.”
Goals have come at a premium for RSL, as well, which hasn’t scored in its last 422 minutes in all competitions dating to Oct. 6. The team has countered that by not allowing a goal in 433 minutes.
“We are pretty excited,” said Seattle forward Fredy Montero. “After the next 90 minutes, there could be more or that’s it. We are happy to be here in the playoffs, but at the same time we have to go forward, keep moving on.”
Added midfielder Brad Evans: “We’ve talked about it for a number of years: If we don’t get it done this year, then things are going to change. The group has been together for four years … so if there’s any time, the time is now.”
There will be a full 30-minute overtime if the game is tied after 90 minutes. If there is still no winner, the match goes to a penalty-kick shootout.