While coach Sigi Schmid and his players admitted they'd like an early goal in Sunday's second leg of the conference final, panic isn't part of the game plan.
There are no guidelines for overcoming a three-goal deficit in the MLS Cup playoffs.
Not yet, at least.
No team has ever won a two-game series after losing the first leg by three goals — a situation only experienced by Sounders FC. Only one team, the 2003 San Jose Earthquakes, has ever come back after being down more than two goals at any point in a series.
But that doesn’t mean the Sounders don’t have a blueprint for shocking the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday in the second leg of the Western Conference finals.
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“The approach is we have to understand that we have to score three goals in 90 minutes; we don’t have to score three goals in five minutes,” said coach Sigi Schmid. “We don’t have to score three goals in 15. For sure, we don’t have to go hog wild.”
One key aspect to the comeback is the first goal.
The hope is to get one in the first 20 to 30 minutes, something that would surely boost an expected CenturyLink Field crowd of more than 40,000. Belief within the Sounders would grow, as well, but as the team has seen, things often don’t go as planned.
“That’s the ideal scenario, and that doesn’t always happen for you,” Schmid said of a fast start. “The important thing is not to go out there and panic and say, ‘Oh, geez, if we don’t get a goal in first 15, 20 minutes of the game, then it’s all over.”
Added midfielder Brad Evans: “It’s not desperation until a certain point.”
With or without an early goal, the Sounders will have to score often. So how will they do that?
In Seattle’s high-scoring games, Schmid said the goals have usually come in a variety of ways.
Maybe there’s a goal off a set piece, like a free kick or corner kick. Maybe there’s a spectacular goal from 35 yards out. Maybe there’s a lucky goal off a deflection. Maybe there’s a goal that comes from hard work or a penalty kick.
The Sounders will be able to field more of a first-choice lineup Sunday, as opposed to what was a conservative look in the first leg, and that should help create a more diverse attack. Forward Eddie Johnson, who led the team with 14 goals, is expected to start, and Mauro Rosales, who led the team with 13 assists, could be available off the bench.
Fredy Montero, who’s stuck in a long postseason scoring drought, said responsibility ultimately falls on him and his teammates.
“In this position right now, I think good players have to show up,” Montero said.
Added Johnson: “Everyone has to be on their game for us to make the opportunity a reality.”
Lastly, don’t forget the impact of what will be the largest playoff crowd in Sounders FC history.
“We’ll need (fans) completely. We need them behind us. They were behind us last year and we almost came through with it,” said Schmid, referencing a near-comeback from a three-goal deficit against Real Salt Lake in the 2011 playoffs. “This is the year we’ve got to complete the job we didn’t complete last year, so we need our fans and we need their support.”
• Mario Martinez rejoined the Sounders after playing as a substitute for Honduras in Wednesday’s friendly against Peru. The game was in Houston, meaning more flights for the midfielder on top of a busy MLS playoff schedule, but Schmid said Martinez is “going to factor” in Sunday’s game.
• Rosales and defender Leo Gonzalez are listed as questionable on the latest injury report with hamstring strains.
Rosales has yet to rejoin full training; Gonzalez has completed the team’s last three practices.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @joshuamayers