SEATTLE – There are no guidelines for overcoming a three-goal deficit in the MLS Cup playoffs. Not yet, at least. No team has ever won a two-game series after losing the first leg by three goals – a situation only experienced by Sounders FC. Only one team, the 2003 San Jose Earthquakes, has ever come back after being down more than two goals at any point in a series.
But that doesn’t mean the Sounders don’t have a blueprint for shocking the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday in the second leg of the Western Conference finals.
“The approach is we have to understand that we have to score three goals in 90 minutes; we don’t have to score three goals in 5 minutes,” said coach Sigi Schmid. “We don’t have to score three goals in 15. For sure, we don’t have to go hog wild.”
One key aspect to the comeback is the first goal. The hope is to get one in the first 20 to 30 minutes, something that would surely boost an expected CenturyLink Field crowd of more than 40,000. Belief within the Sounders would grow, as well, but as the team has seen, things often don’t go as planned.
“That’s the ideal scenario, and that doesn’t always happen for you,” Schmid said of a fast start. “The important thing is not to go out there and panic and say, ‘Oh, geez, if we don’t get a goal in the first 15, 20 minutes of the game, then it’s all over.’ ”
Added midfielder Brad Evans: “It’s not desperation until a certain point.”
With or without an early goal, the Sounders will have to score often. So how will they do that? In Seattle’s high-scoring games, Schmid said the goals have usually come in a variety of ways. Maybe there’s a goal off a set piece, like a free kick or corner kick. Maybe there’s a spectacular goal from 35 yards out. Maybe there’s a lucky goal off a deflection. Maybe there’s a goal that comes from hard work or a penalty kick.
The Sounders will be able to field more of a first-choice lineup Sunday, as opposed to what was a conservative look in the first leg, and that should help create a more diverse attack. Forward Eddie Johnson, who led the team with 14 goals, is expected to start, and Mauro Rosales, who led the team with 13 assists, could be available off the bench.
“In this position right now, I think good players have to show up,” said Fredy Montero, stuck in a postseason scoring drought.