Seattle’s match at Chivas USA on Wednesday night is not a meeting of equals.
The Sounders are at the top of the Western Conference, Chivas the bottom.
The hosts have lost six straight matches. They haven’t scored a goal in 546 minutes — the longest drought for any team in MLS this season — and their last goal, vs. D.C. United on July 20, came only as consolation while trailing 3-0. Mauro Rosales is gone, traded to Vancouver in late August, and Erick “Cubo” Torres is away on Mexican national team duty.
The match isn’t likely to boast much of an atmosphere, either, given Chivas’ league-worst average attendance of 7,436 at the StubHub Center.
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Its last midweek game, against Portland in late May, drew an announced crowd of 3,702.
“You just have to deal with it. There’s nothing you can do that’s going to change it,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said after training Tuesday at Starfire Sports Complex. “I’ll try to get as many friends and family out there to help us.”
The match is a chance to work out some kinks.
Motivation shouldn’t be hard to come by for players like Lamar Neagle, who last started for Seattle in its 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake on Aug. 16.
Neagle scored in the Sounders’ 5-1 reserve-team win over Arizona United last week and would be a natural replacement for midfielder Marco Pappa, who will miss two weeks at the Copa Centroamericana with Guatemala.
“I think I had a little bit of a slump but I’m coming out of it,” Neagle said.
“(I’m) focusing more on the smaller things instead of thinking, ‘Yeah, I need to score in this next big game, at that big moment.’ I need to get some goals in practice, some tap-ins in practice, to work my way up again.”
Kenny Cooper could also slot in on the wing — as he did in Seattle’s draw against San Jose a few weeks ago — as could Andy Rose, Aaron Kovar and Sean Okoli with varying degrees of lineup shuffling. Each would relish the chance to push for additional minutes.
The match is, above all, an opportunity for the Sounders to start rebuilding the gap in the standings.
What was once a 10-point lead in the Western Conference now stands at two over the hard-charging L.A. Galaxy, which beat Chivas 3-0 on Sunday night to pull to 48-46.
“We need to get points,” Schmid said. “We were the first team this year to get to 30, to get to 40. We want to be the first team to get to 50 points. … We can’t let down. There are a lot of teams continuing to do well.
“We have to keep the pressure on. If they’re going to catch us, they’re going to have to keep winning because we’re going to keep winning.”