TUKWILA — Sounders FC’s opponent today, Chivas USA, recently snapped a 14-game winless streak, which matched the longest within a season in MLS history.
But such news has long been forgotten.
Why? This week the Los Angeles-based club was the subject of an investigation by HBO’s “Real Sports,” which cited alleged discrimination from former players and academy coaches, causing a firestorm of attention leaguewide the past few days. As a result, on-the-field news, like an 8 p.m. game at CenturyLink Field, has almost become a sideshow.
The struggling Sounders, however, hope to avoid distraction amid efforts to get back into a playoff position.
“The team is aware of it, but I don’t think it’s a big important part of conversation,” said coach Sigi Schmid of the allegations. “All the guys know. Some guys have been down at Chivas and played there. I think the attitude within the team is, ‘That’s them. That’s not us.’ ... All that’s on our minds is playing the game Sunday and getting points.”
The Sounders have connections to Chivas USA from the past year or so, when the allegations have been based, coinciding with Mexican owner Jorge Vergara assuming full control of the team.
Former Chivas defender James Riley, who played in Seattle from 2009-11 and now plays for D.C. United, was interviewed in the HBO report. Asked if he thought the team was getting rid of players who weren’t Mexican or Mexican-American, Riley said it was a “systematic expulsion.”
A pair of academy coaches have sued the club, citing wrongful termination.
Sounders midfielder Shalrie Joseph was traded to Seattle from Chivas USA in the preseason and said he knew by his second day at his old club that it wasn’t going to work out for him, so he pursued a move to the Sounders.
“With all the changes they were making — the coaches, the staff and all of that that was going on — then I realized it,” Joseph said on Feb. 8. “And speaking with the coach and seeing how he feels and seeing where the direction of the team was going, I knew I wasn’t going to be a part of it.”
Joseph declined to address the matter this week, according to a Sounders FC spokesman.
Bigger issues in Seattle lie with the team’s position in the Western Conference standings. The team is seven points behind the top five.
Last-place Chivas USA, it seems, might be the perfect opponent. The Sounders haven’t lost to Chivas USA since 2009, a 7-0-4 unbeaten streak that also includes a pair of wins in the U.S. Open Cup. Only six players on the Seattle roster have lost in the head-to-head series, though Schmid hasn’t put much stock in history.
“We try not to focus on that,” he said. “What we try to focus on is making sure that we play well.”
And is there an added sense of urgency coming off just one win in five games?
“I’ve never been a coach that believes in, ‘This is a must win,’ or ‘This is the game,’ ” Schmid said. “I think there’s enough pressure week to week. If the players don’t realize that, then they’re in the wrong profession.”
• Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning (forearm) has been training the past couple days but won’t be ready to return Sunday. Andrew Weber is set to start his second straight game with MLS pool goalkeeper Doug Herrick on the bench.
• Forward Obafemi Martins has recovered after being kicked in the knee this week in practice. Teammates Djimi Traore (hamstring), Andy Rose (hamstring) and Brad Evans (rib) also look ready for bigger roles Sunday after being limited last week.