The new MLS playoff format handed the fourth-seeded Los Angeles Galaxy an extra game — the play-in game with fifth-seed Vancouver — before moving into the Western Conference semifinals against San Jose and now the finals against Seattle.
However, LA resolved that Quakes series on Wednesday and went home, while the third-seeded Sounders resolved their series at Salt Lake on Thursday, returned to Seattle, and then flies down to Southern California today for their match at Home Depot Center tomorrow.
Who does all this benefit? Here’s what coach Sigi Schmid had to say:
Does extra game hurt LA? I don’t know. They’re a pretty deep team. They spread minutes among their big guys. I think with the LA Galaxy, you’re looking at a team that’s a really veteran team. You look at their last game with San Jose, you look at the way the Robbie Keane really stepped up his game – I think moreso than anybody. Landon was good for sure, and Beckham had some moments as well. But to me in that game Robbie Keane stepped up and said, ‘Get on my back, I’ll carry you over the line.’ And he did that. So when you have players like that, with that much international experience and that kind of veteran savvy, the additional game, they know how to manage those situations. They pick and choose, maybe, there moments on when to run, when to make your movements and then make them a lot more impactful. That comes with experienced. I’m not worried about them playing the extra game right now. We’re playing our third game in basically eight games, and I think they’re playing their fourth game in 10. Early on in the game they’re going to come at us for sure, because that’s just the way Bruce is and that’s the way they’ll be. I think they’ll tire a bit in the second half, and hopefully that will come to our advantage.
Does shorter turnaround, plus travel, hurt Seattle? There’s so many way you can look at it. You can rationalize it either way. Obviously if we could have played on Wednesday, that might have been better than Thursday when you look at it, the games sort of backed up, and just sort of the problems of trying to book airline reservations and flights since we’re not a league that goes charter all the time. We’re a league that goes commercial. It might have been easier to go straight from Salt Lake to LA if we had known all this, but we couldn’t get flights form Salt Lake to LA, so we have ot do it this way. There’s time when you could say, OK that would give and advantage to an LA because because it’s been a lot more hectic with our travel day when they’ve been settled down and got back home after their game on Wednesday. I think they chartered to San Jose, so they chartered back probably Wednesday night after the game, they were sleeping in their own beds, they’re settled. But then on the other hand, sometimes when things are hectic you get on a roll and you keep rolling forward and you keep going. You sort of just, ‘Hey, just another day, and let’s get it done and lets more on,’ and sometimes that’s not the worst thing either. I’ve been involved with teams both ways, and I think the most important thing is not overly focus on it. Take what comes at you and digest it, and move it and turn it into a positive.