In the thick of the Major League Soccer playoff race, the Seattle Sounders have 21 more points available to them in this regular season, and naturally they want them all.
However, coach Sigi Schmid believes a lower number — 13 — should assure the team’s annual goal of making the postseason.
“I’ve always said historically if you’re going to average a point and a half a game, which is 51, you’re generally going to get into the playoffs,” he said. “So now we’re at 38 ... so obviously you can figure it out. (This game against Toronto FC) is important for us on Saturday because it’s at home: We need to get the points at home. And then the (Sept. 12) game in San Jose (California) becomes a very big game.”
Schmid’s 1.5-points-per-game rule might be more than adequate this season, as six of the 10 teams from each MLS conference make it into the playoffs. In the current standings, only four teams from the West and three from the East average 1.5 points a game. Seattle averages 1.41.
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Of the seven remaining opponents, four have more points than the Sounders, and one — San Jose — is even, although with a game in hand. The Sounders are listed in sixth place — above the playoff red line — and the Earthquakes are listed below in seventh on the basis of the first playoff tiebreaker: wins.
The Sounders got their 38 points from 12 wins, 13 losses and only two draws; while the Earthquakes got theirs by going 11-10-5.
“We’ve never been a big drawing team overall,” Schmid said. “I know we’ve had seasons where we’ve had some draws, but we’ve never, I think, been one of the teams that’s near the top of the league in draws. I think (that’s) because we always go out trying to win games, and sometimes when you’re trying to win games you open yourself up late in the game, and sometimes you do win the game. So as a result, sometimes you have less draws.”
Looking down in the standings, the Sounders are three points up on Houston, five up on Colorado and six ahead of last-place Salt Lake.
Looking up, the Sounders are eight points from Western Conference leader Los Angeles and seven from No. 2 seed Vancouver. That’s a lot to make up over seven games, although the Sounders have head-to-head matches with each. And those two spots are especially valuable this season because the top two finishers in each conference get first-round playoff byes.
The third and fourth seeds are rewarded too, as those teams earn home-field advantage in single knockout matches with the sixth- and fifth-seeds, respectively. And those positions dangled temptingly closer to the Sounders: Dallas occupies third place with 41 points, while Kansas City and Portland are tied for fourth with 40 points — meaning Seattle could catch any or all of those before the weekend is through.
“All the games are the same from here on out: They’re all big games,” Schmid said. “This is an important game for us because we’re at home, and every time we’re at home we want to get three points.”
On Thursday, Sounders designated players Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins and Nelson Valdez trained together for the first time. And while cautioned they need time to synch as a group, Schmid indicated all three will play Saturday.
Meanwhile, Toronto FC is expected to be without forwards Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore. Giovinco, who on Thursday was named MLS Player of the Month for August, is recovering from an adductor injury. Altidore is with the U.S. national team, which will play friendly with Peru at 4 p.m. Friday in Washington, D.C.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808