A Kick in the Holiday Season

The U.S. Women's National Team heads to Brasilia in December.

The MLS might take a break in the middle of the playoffs for the sake of international fútbol, but the U.S. Women’s National Team has a tough run in December, packing four games into eleven days for the 2014 Brasilia International Tournament.

That said, up in the Pacific Northwest fans are preparing for Sunday night’s showdown in Carson when Sounders FC will meet L.A. Galaxy in the first leg of their Western Conference Final match. Their last meeting was less than a month ago, with the Seattle club taking a 2-0 win and also the Supporters’ Shield, much to the delight of over fifty-seven thousand fans at CenturyLink Field.

Meanwhile, Don Ruiz offers the latest preview of Sunday’s big game:

The Seattle Sounders would be notably short of their best without forward Clint Dempsey and defender DeAndre Yedlin, just as the Los Angeles Galaxy wouldn’t look the same without goals-leader Robbie Keane.

Those realities led Major League Soccer to schedule a break between its conference semifinal and final rounds, going dark during a two-week window for international play.

For the USA, that window closed Tuesday with a 4-1 loss to Ireland in Dublin. The USA played without MLS stars Dempsey, Yedlin and New England midfielders Jermaine Jones and Lee Nguyen. Dempsey wasn’t called for either of the United States friendlies during the MLS break, while the others were released after the first match last week — a 2-1 loss to Colombia — so that they could spend this week in playoff preparations with their club teams. Ireland did the same with Keane.

“It’s good,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said of Yedlin’s early return this week. “Obviously they have Robbie Keane back as well, so it’s the same for everybody. It’s good that (U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann) allowed those guys … to return after the game. That’s what we thought was going to happen, and that happened.”

While Clint Dempsey acknowledges feeling “pretty beat up, pretty tired” from all the running around, DeAndre Yedlin—who will play next season with Tottenham Hotspur—says he’s ready, citing the one asset he has over the veteran superstar: youth.

Meanwhile, Sounders FC is playing up the power of the coming matchup. Justin Lester noted yesterday that the match will give significance to the rivalry between the two most successful coaches in MLS history, Sigi Schmid of Sounders FC and Bruce Arena of LA Galaxy.

Six of the 18 MLS Cups belong to either Schmid or Arena, who coached against each other at the collegiate level before their storied MLS tenures. In head-to-head matchups, Arena has a slight edge over Schmid with an 11-8-6 record in all competitions at the professional level.

“If it was him and I kicking the ball, it would make for an ugly game, especially since he was a goalkeeper,” said Schmid, who was a midfielder at UCLA while Arena played at Cornell. “We only played against each other once when I was in college. We won 1-0, but it was a game that, under new concussion protocol, I would have never finished the game. I got concussed early on in that game and I can’t remember anything about it. I wish I could.”

Let us simply leave that one at, ouch. Meanwhile, the head-to-head numbers and overall postseason wins might favor Arena, but Schmid has led teams to more total victories and five U.S. Open Cup titles, compared to Arena’s one. Indeed, it is hard to read the numbers, because the one that stands out finds its home in Seattle. Arena’s club will hope to thrash Schmid’s in the first leg, given the prospect of needing to pile up road goals at the CLink. Sounders FC averaged 113% attendance this season, and if that idea seems confusing, it is reconciled easily enough by pointing out that the 38,500 ticket allocation for games not only is the highest in the league, but is allocated for a stadium that seats up to 72,000.

Sigi Schmid of Sounders FC stands as the coach with the most MLS wins.Fifty-seven thousand six hundred seventy-three.

That is the number LA Galaxy faced in the CLink last month when Sounders FC captured the Supporters’ Shield. Ranked third for attendance this season, LAG averaged 21,258 per game, less than half of what SFC drew (avg. 43,734).

Yeah. Rave on.

And regardless, the MLS Cup match will be played on 6 December, with the contending clubs on a normal week’s rest.

As for fútbol fans? Well, they have all of four days to recover and shake off hung over cobwebs before they are called back into service as the U.S. Women’s National Team meets China at Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha in Brasilia.

For Americans, we’ve got a month of really, really good soccer coming up. And just in time for the holidays.

____________________

U.S. Soccer. “Matches”. 2014.

—————. “U.S. WNT vs. China PR – 2014 Brasilia International Tournament”. 2014.

Ruiz, Don. “Playoff break kept Sounders, Galaxy closer to full strength”. The News Tribune. 18 November 2014.

Lester, Justin. “Two best coaches in MLS history meet in Conference Championship”. SoundersFC.com. 18 November 2014.

Schultz, Tom. “2014 Final Attendance Update”. MLS Attendance. 26 October 2014.

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