The Sounders host rival Vancouver at 1 p.m. Saturday in a game full of playoff-seeding implications. "These are three very important points," said coach Sigi Schmid.
TUKWILA — Why is Sounders FC’s 1 p.m. home game Saturday against Vancouver so important?
Coach Sigi Schmid has many reasons.
It’s a rivalry game — the 128th meeting, in fact, in the 38-year series between Pacific Northwest rivals.
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It can be a bounce-back game — last week was as bad as it gets for Seattle, losing the U.S. Open Cup final on penalty kicks and then losing in MLS three days later in the last minute of stoppage.
It’s a tiebreaker — the Sounders, Whitecaps and Los Angeles Galaxy are tied for third in the Western Conference in a tight race for playoff seeding.
“These are three very important points,” said Schmid.
That’s especially true after last week’s unexpected announcement of new tiebreakers for the end of the regular season.
Head-to-head is no longer the first option to settle a tie in the standings, a consequence of the league’s shift to an unbalanced schedule. Neither is goal differential, which would seem to be the obvious next choice and also a stat where Seattle (plus-8) leads L.A. (plus-4) and Vancouver (minus-3)
The top tiebreaker, in the league’s attempt to encourage attacking play, is goals scored.
The Galaxy stand to benefit most from the change with 44 goals scored compared to the Sounders (32) and Whitecaps (28). New York is the big winner in the East as the top scoring team (40 goals) despite a fourth-best goal differential (plus-6) in the conference.
“It’s not going to change how we approach it on a game-by-game basis,” Schmid said of the new tiebreakers, which teams knew about before the midseason announcement. “For us right now, the important thing is points and not to be tied with anybody.”
Saturday could also be significant from a personnel standpoint. It is expected to be the first time a new Seattle “Big Four” will be in the same starting lineup — the three designated players, Fredy Montero, Mauro Rosales and new addition Christian Tiffert, along with leading scorer Eddie Johnson.
“My job as a coach is to make sure that the mix is right at the end of the day,” said Schmid. “We’ll see how the mix looks when we play the game Saturday and then we’ll go from there.”
Mario Martinez arrives
The Sounders welcomed their newest acquisition, Mario Martinez, to the team Friday.
The 23-year-old Honduran, who helped lead his national team to the Olympic quarterfinals, could be available to play Saturday, according to Schmid. Otherwise he’ll play in Sunday’s MLS Reserve League game against the Galaxy.
“I’m just hoping to be able to take advantage of the opportunity because I’ve heard it’s a great place to be,” said Martinez, through an interpreter.
Schmid said Martinez can play as a wide midfielder on the left or right and also as a withdrawn forward.
• Rookie defender Andrew Duran tore his left ACL while on loan with the Atlanta Silverbacks of the NASL. He has returned to Seattle and is expected to undergo surgery next week. Duran, the Sounders’ top pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, tore his right ACL in college and has had two surgeries to repair his right meniscus.
• Schmid confirmed he has recently become a grandfather. His son Kurt, who’s also an assistant coach and scout, and his son’s wife, Joanne, have a new daughter, Reagan Marie. Defender Patrick Ianni and wife, Christine, also have a new daughter, Emi.
• The Sounders are last in the Cascadia Cup, a fan-sponsored competition among rivals Seattle (0-1-1), Vancouver (0-0-2) and Portland (1-0-1).
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org