The Seattle Sounders’ performance in Texas on Sunday will determine whether their 2015 playoff run continues or ends.
It also could go a long way toward determining the makeup of the 2016 team.
The resolution of the Western Conference semifinal with FC Dallas could turn on a bad shot, a bad bounce or a bad call. But general manager Garth Lagerwey said the bottom-line result will figure into offseason thinking.
“If you lose in the wild card round to the Galaxy for the fourth time in a row versus win MLS Cup, those are radically different outcomes,” Lagerwey said. “If you lose in the first round to a young, hungry team, I think you start to have conversations about, ‘Well it’s not just Dallas, it’s Columbus and it’s New York and it’s Vancouver,’ and you have a number of these teams that are kind of going to kind of young, fully integrated academy-to-first-team approach, highly planned. And you’d say it would be foolish of us not to consider some of the things they’re doing.”
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The mostly veteran Sounders began their postseason by shaking off playoff nemesis Los Angeles in the play-in match. Then they opened the semifinals with a 2-1 home win against Dallas. That sets up a second leg where Seattle advances with a win or draw or any one-goal loss in which they score two or more goals. A 2-1 loss would send the match into extra time, while a 1-0 loss or any loss by more than one goal would send Dallas to the Western Conference finals.
“When I read the statistics, I think we have about a 55 percent chance,” Lagerwey said. “It’s basically dead even going into the second leg. The simplest thing by far is for us to win the game. We’re capable of winning the game. If we do and we advance, then people don’t worry about this and there’s less speculation.”
National speculation involves not only which players will return next season, but also the fate of coach Sigi Schmid. Lagerwey has regularly spoken of his respect for Schmid’s résumé and how much he has enjoyed working with him. But there has been no assurance that Schmid will return, and Lagerwey declined to offer one Tuesday, saying he’s not certain that would be his call in any case.
Also figuring into speculation is the recent departure of coach Jason Kreis from New York City FC. Kreis was the longtime coach of Real Salt Lake under Lagerwey, and the two have been friends for longer. But Lagerwey said whether they ever work together again is a separate issue.
“I’m happy with the direction of the club, and I’m happy with Sig, I’m happy with the staff,” he said. “I read the conspiracy theories to the contrary, but I think I’m a decent human being, and I think it would have been disingenuous to say, ‘Oh, I’m going to take this job and I’m coming here secretly to tip over the apple cart and overthrow everything.’ I don’t think I’ve done that so far. … I don’t plan to change the approach. Look: All this stuff goes away if we win.”
Osvaldo Alonso (groin) and Leo Gonzalez (adductor) jogged on the sideline at training Tuesday, while Brad Evans (hamstring) worked indoors. Schmid said their status is day to day. … MLS announced the finalists for its postseason awards Tuesday. Sounders were represented in two categories: Brad Evans for humanitarian of the year and the club for the fair play award. Nominees among other top categories were MVP: Benny Feilhaber (Kansas City), Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto), Kei Kamara (Columbus); defender: Laurent Ciman (Montreal), Matt Hedges (Dallas), Kendall Waston (Vancouver); goalkeeper: Bill Hamid (D.C.), David Ousted (Vancouver), Luis Robles (Red Bulls); newcomer: Didier Drogba (Montreal), Giovinco, Mike Grella (New York Red Bulls); coach: Jesse Marsch (Red Bulls), Oscar Pareja (Dallas), Carl Robinson (Vancouver).