If the Seattle Sounders lose 1-0 to FC Dallas on Sunday they will be eliminated from the MLS playoffs, but if they lose 3-2 they will advance to the Western Conference finals.
All right, come up with a game plan for that.
Actually, Sigi Schmid already has. Whenever asked in the days leading up to the 4:30 p.m. Sunday resolution match at Dallas, the coach has cut through all of the tiebreaking scenarios based on away goals and concentrated on the basics: The Sounders absolutely advance with any win or tie.
“I think you come in with the mentality that you want to win,” Schmid repeated Saturday. “If you don’t win (but) you get a tie, you’re OK. If you come in with the mentality to tie, then there are too many things that can go wrong. All of a sudden you slip up and all of a sudden the tie turns into a loss, and that’s not what we want. Our mentality is we want to come in and play.”
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Dallas is faster and younger and lives by the counterattack. Still, Schmid and his players stressed all week that their plan is to go forward, a strategy that could serve them in a couple of ways.
For one, the away-goals tiebreaker sets up a situation where the visiting Sounders’ chances increase with a goal, and increase greatly with two or more.
Seattle also has been scoring multiple goals recently while playing off the front foot. The Sounders ended the regular season with a 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake, opened the playoffs with a 3-2 victory over Los Angeles in the play-in match and began this series with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Dallas.
“A common factor over the last few games is we’ve kind of come out of the blocks flying a bit, trying to attack quickly, put the other team under a lot of pressure,” Sounders midfielder Andy Rose said. “So we’re going to have to do the same. Ideally, we want to score a goal there. If we can get more than one, then fantastic, but we have to go out with an attacking mentality. Against a team like that with the sort of pace and creativity they have, you can’t just sit back and defend.”
The Sounders also seem to be heading into the match with more options on the attacking end than in back. Designated players Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins and Nelson Valdez are all expected to be not only available, but rested. The question marks are primarily defensive guys: defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (groin), central defender Brad Evans (hamstring), and left back Leo Gonzalez (adductor).
However, Dallas is an especially dangerous team to take on in a track meet. The Hoops are 17-1-0 when scoring two or more goals.
They’re also got 13 home wins this season, the most in MLS despite average home attendance of 16,013, which was third-worst in the 20-team league.
“We’re more motivated to get people to watch us play,” Dallas midfielder Victor Ulloa said. “And when we do get a full stadium we’re energized and we go with everything, especially playing in front of our family and friends. It just pushes us a little more.”
The Hoops also have the incentive of revenge as Seattle knocked them out of the 2014 semifinals on the away-goals rule.
“We do think about last year — at least I do,” Ulloa said. “They went through on a road goal. We didn’t like it. We get memories from that. Of course, we don’t want anybody to beat us, at home especially, and we’re ready for this game on Sunday.”
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808
FC DALLAS VS. SEATTLE SOUNDERS
4:30 p.m. Sunday; Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas.
TV: Fox Sports 1. Radio: 97.3-FM.
Head to head: Seattle leads the all-time regular-season series 9-3-5, and 3-2-4 at Dallas. Seattle is 2-0-1 vs. Dallas this season: a scoreless draw March 28 in Texas, a 3-0 win June 13 at CenturyLink, and 2-1 last weekend in the home leg of this series. Seattle eliminated Dallas from the 2014 semifinals on the away-goals tiebreaker.
Notes: This is the resolution match of the two-leg Western Conference semifinal series. Away goals are the first tiebreaker. The Sounders will advance to the Western Conference final with a win, a draw or a one-goal loss in which they score two or more goals. Dallas advances with a 1-0 win, or any win with a margin of two or more goals. A 2-1 win by Dallas would send the series to added time and, if needed, penalty kicks. … Top-seeded Dallas (18-10-6) won the Western Conference and automatically advanced to the semifinal round. Seattle (15-13-6) finished fifth and advanced with a 3-2 win over Los Angeles in the play-in round. … The Sounders are unbeaten over their last 11 games (7-0-4). … Dallas was a league-best 13-2-2 at home this season. Seattle is 4-9-4 away. … Obafemi Martins leads Seattle with 15 goals, and Clint Dempsey has 10 assists. Fabian Castillo leads Dallas with nine goals and Mauro Diaz with 10 assists. … Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez is 20 years old. … Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (groin) and defenders Brad Evans (hamstring) and Leo Gonzalez (undisclosed) are doubtful. … The referee is Baldomero Toledo.
Quote: “No. We’re prepared, and we want to win the game — just as Dallas is going into the game to get the result. I try not to cloud myself with those negative thoughts.” — Sounders coach Sigi Schmid on if he will think about the possibility that Sunday could be the last day of the season.
Next: The winner advances to the Western Conference finals against the winner of the Vancouver-Portland series, which also resolves Sunday.