When the Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders FC step onto the pitch at CenturyLink Field today, they will be tied with Los Angeles in a three-way logjam for third place in the Western Conference of Major League Soccer.
Theres still a lot of soccer to go in a regular-season that reaches almost to Halloween. However, any clubs even in the standings at the end of the 34-match regular season will be separated by new criteria that reward offense.
A team like L.A. that scores a lot of goals and gives up a lot of goals gains an advantage, Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said Friday. So, you can actually have a negative goal differential and you can be seeded ahead of somebody youre tied with because you scored goals. Obviously, thats the emphasis the league wants to put on it. But its not going to change how we approach a game on a game-by-game basis.
In a procedure announced last week, ties in playoff positioning will be broken first by most total goals scored, then by goal differential. After that, in order: fewest disciplinary points, most road goals scored, greatest road-goal differential, most home goals scored, greatest home goal differential and, finally, coin toss (two teams) or drawing lots (three or more).
Going into this weekend, the Galaxy has 44 goals, the Sounders have 32 and the Whitecaps 28. However, Seattles goal differential is plus 8, L.A.s is plus 4, and Vancouvers is minus 3.
For us right now, the thing is points and not to be tied with anybody, Schmid said. So (the Vancouver game offers) three very important points. Its a West Coast team, its a rival, its a six-point game. Were tied with them right now, weve got some games in hand. But if we can get the three-point cushion and keep those games in hand, it makes it all the better.
There is a greater advantage this season to finish in third place over fourth or fifth, because those final two qualifying clubs in each conference meet in a single loser-out game for the right to face the conferences top seed. Meanwhile, the second- and third-place finishers meet in a two-game, home-and-away, aggregate-score series.
MARTINEZ TO DEBUT
Midfielder Mario Martinez, acquired on loan from Real Espana of Honduras on Aug. 1, participated in his first Sounders training session Friday and is expected to play this weekend.
You can tell hes got a nice touch, Schmid said. He wasnt afraid of asking for the ball when hes out on the field. Weve got to give him a little bit of time to acclimate and get used to everything. Obviously, weve got our game (today), and then weve got a reserve game on Sunday, so Im sure hell get on the field.
Martinez said he is ready despite a busy schedule that sent him to London with the Honduras Olympic team before traveling to a friendly with the Boca Juniors on Wednesday in Florida.
I would love to play, but thats really a technical decision, he said through an interpreter. They brought me here and theyre going to give me a chance, so theres something that they had to have seen in me. Im a good shooter, Im good on assists, I see the game well. Im hoping thats what I can help this team with.
Sounders rookie Andrew Duran has returned to Seattle for surgery on a torn ACL suffered while on loan with the Atlanta Silverbacks of NASL. The Silverbacks also announced the release of midfielder Raphael Cox, a Tacoma native who also played for the University of Washington, Tacoma Tide and Real Salt Lake. Schmid has become a grandfather. His son Kurt, a Sounders assistant, and daughter-in-law Joanne became parents of a 10-pound, 7-ounce daughter, Reagan Marie.