road goals

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.

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A Raving Smirk

Sometimes there is a good reason to dwell on the past, and that reason is generally to smirk at the future. Well, okay, it feels good. But sometimes smirking amounts to asking for trouble.

Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid. (Photo: Ted S. Warren/AP)After what Seattle Sounders FC majority owner Joe Roth called a “horrible” end to the 2013 season, he faced a decision: fire coach Sigi Schmid, or fire some players.

“It was close,” Roth said. “I called Sigi down to Los Angeles with (general manager Adrian Hanauer). It was after we won one of the last 10 games, (survived) the play-in game and lost to Portland. I was upset. And we sat for a couple of hours. And I sat there and I thought, ‘You know, I could fire this guy, who I think is one of the two best coaches in the league. But he’s won the championship in LA and Columbus. So I’ve either got to fire him or fire the players.’ So I fired the players — because obviously they just weren’t jelling.”

This season, the new combination jelled. The Sounders won their fourth U.S. Open Cup, their first Supporters’ Shield and on Sunday will begin the Western Conference finals series at Los Angeles in hopes of advancing to their first MLS Cup.

As Don Ruiz notes for The News Tribune, Sounders FC failed to reach the MLS Cup final in their first five seasons. Sunday, however, brings the first leg of their two-game Western Conference Final aggregate against L.A. Galaxy, who Sounders FC just defeated a few weeks ago in order to capture their first Supporters’ Shield. The first task will be to hold LAG to zero goals; all else follows.

Well, okay, not all. SFC still have to score at least a goal, preferably in Los Angeles, and then everything else can follow. The whole thing about road goals is puzzling to Americans who don’t follow fútbol, but the maxim still generally holds: Offense wins games; defense wins championships.

Whatever. The bottom line is to get your smirk on. Sounders FC face L.A. Galaxy Sunday, 23 November, at StubHub Center in Carson, California. Along with the second leg, a week later in Seattle, these will be Landon Donovan’s last matches in MLS.

Rally up, Rave Green. There will be no swan song for the American legend.

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Ruiz, Don. “Sounders owner glad he kept coach, fired players”. The News Tribune. 17 November 2014.