Seattle Sounders FC and the Los Angeles Galaxy are even in the Major League Soccer points race, with about a month left in the regular season.
The Sounders have one game in hand, and they hope to turn that into points Wednesday when they visit FC Dallas.
However, if Seattle and Los Angeles happen to hit the finish line with the same number of points, the first tiebreaker favors the Sounders. And they had better hope it stays that way, because the second tiebreaker strongly favors the Galaxy.
That first tiebreaker is wins, and Seattle leads the league with 17 — two more than L.A.
However, the second tiebreaker is goal differential, a category the Galaxy dominates at plus-28. The Sounders’ plus-11 is third in the Western Conference, behind Real Salt Lake.
That odd confluence of statistics comes together because Seattle has the most wins in MLS, but Los Angeles has the fewest losses (five). The Sounders also have the fewest draws (three), meaning when they don’t win, they usually lose. And for a top-tier team, they have a tendency to sometimes lose spectacularly.
“We’ve had a couple of games where we’ve imploded,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “… Certainly we have to eliminate that as we go toward the playoffs.”
Among the Sounders’ eight losses are scores of 5-0 at New England, 3-0 to the Galaxy and 4-1 Saturday at New York.
The Sounders were especially vulnerable in that one, because Schmid rested many of his usual starters after the 120-minute U.S. Open Cup win four days earlier at Philadelphia.
Now another two-game week looms — Wednesday at Dallas, and Saturday versus Chivas USA in Seattle. But this also is the final two-game week on the schedule, and Schmid didn’t indicate such dramatic roster juggling this time around.
“I think it’s a mental approach to get through it,” he said. “And I thought the cumulative effect of trying to play some guys against New York probably would have ruled them out of this game here. So we decided to play our cards that way. But it wasn’t the personnel; it was we played a bad game.”
Seattle goals leaders Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey were among the reserves at New York. And the Sounders already were behind 3-0 before they were sent in for the final half-hour.
“I talked to them (about taking the night off), but they wanted to get onto the field,” Schmid said. “The plan was for them to come on at 55 to 60 (minutes). We thought we’d still be (down) 1-0 at that point. And obviously things change quickly, but they still wanted to play.”
Schmid said his team is in good health. Everyone trained Monday except for midfielder Gonzalo Pineda, who suffered a hard tackle from behind at New York. Schmid also said newly signed defender Onyekachi Apam is expected to join the team in Seattle at the end of the week.
The rest of the players appear not only fit, but eager.
“We want to get back to where we know we are,” midfielder Lamar Neagle said. “We’re in the No. 1 position for a reason, and we need to show that every single game, especially leading into the playoffs. … It’s three points every single game of the season, but once you get toward the end of those games they count a lot more, it seems like.”