The Sounders were almost unbeatable at 10-1-2 when both Mauro Rosales and Michael Gspurning were in the starting lineup. Both are healthy and ready for their first Sounders FC playoff action this week.
While fans anxiously wait for the results of Eddie Johnson’s MRI to be made known — the star forward left Sunday’s regular-season finale with a hamstring injury — two other key Sounders are gearing up for their first postseason action in Seattle.
Midfielder Mauro Rosales, in particular, is appreciative for a chance to finally take part.
He was in a similar position to Johnson last year, when he suffered a knee injury in the final game of the regular season and missed the team’s Western Conference semifinal against Real Salt Lake.
“I’m very excited because last time I was very nervous watching from the outside,” said Rosales, who earned a club-record 13 assists each of the past two seasons. “Now I have the chance to do my thing and try to help the team in these kinds of games.”
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Those feelings were echoed by goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, who had one of the best seasons in MLS history in his first year with the Sounders.
“That’s the fun thing with American sports: The season will always be remembered by the fans and from everyone by how we do in the playoffs,” he said. “The regular season is over now and now starts the real season.”
In a short time, Rosales and Gspurning have become essential parts of Sounders FC, and when both were in the starting lineup Seattle was almost unbeatable at 10-1-2 — the only loss coming Sunday against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Rosales, the 2011 MLS Newcomer of the Year, became a fan favorite and was also named team captain in his second season following the retirement of Kasey Keller. The Sounders are 25-7-15 the past two years when he starts (with 1.77 goals scored per game) and 8-8-5 when he doesn’t (1.14 goals per game).
Gspurning is Seattle’s leading candidate for Newcomer of the Year this season. The Austrian posted a gaudy 0.73 goals-against average, which was third-best in MLS history. That average led the league and set a franchise record.
The Sounders were 12-4-5 this season when Gspurning played and 3-4-6 when he was out with a hip injury, which included a franchise-worst nine-game winless streak.
Having both Rosales and Gspurning healthy for the playoffs provides some assurance amid the uncertainty surrounding Johnson, whose status won’t be updated by the team until after Tuesday’s practice.
But the margin of error in the playoffs, these experienced 31-year-olds know, is threadlike.
“Now it’s the time we have to stick together and know that every tackle, every minute, every second is important,” Gspurning said.
Added Rosales: “In these kinds of games against the best, you cannot make mistakes. We know what we have to do.”
Playoff info set
Sounders FC’s home playoff game Friday will kick off at 7 p.m., and the local broadcast by Ross Fletcher and Keller will be televised nationally on the NBC Sports Network.
The game will be broadcast exclusively on KONG 6/16 in the Seattle area and on ROOT Sports across the region.
The Sounders’ second playoff game, on the road Nov. 8, will start at 6:30 p.m., but television details have not been confirmed.
• CenturyLink Field’s capacity for Friday’s game is currently set for just the lower bowl, but general manager Adrian Hanauer indicated more sections could be opened up if demand for tickets is high enough.
“We want it tight and as intimidating as possible,” Hanauer said of the stadium’s seating configuration. “We didn’t want fans scattered around, so first and foremost was to sell that lower bowl. If we sell that, I assume we’ll open the next areas, but we know from experience that selling playoff tickets can be challenging.”
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @joshuamayers.