Success Brings Confidence

The Sounders are confident that they can advance to the Champions League semifinals in part because they have always been so successful on the road.

Throughout the club’s history, the Sounders FC has had a good road record.

In 2009, their inaugural season, they were second only to the LA Galaxy at 5-5-5 on the road and won their first US Open Cup title at RFK Stadium against DC United, also topping the Portland Timbers on the road on the path to the title.

In 2010, they were third behind LA and the San Jose Earthquakes a 6-6-3, again winning in Portland on their way to a second straight Open Cup title.

In 2011, they went 9-3-5 away from CenturyLink Field, six points clear of the Galaxy for the best road record in the league.  They also added a 2-0-1 road record in the Champions League group stage, extending that road success into international competition.

With that history behind them, it’s no wonder they are going into the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal meeting with Santos Laguna with so much confidence.

“We know that they have to beat us and I can tell you that nobody is scared to go down there,” midfielder Brad Evans said.  “We have done well anywhere we played away from home last year.”

Their road wins in 2011 included several signature moments too.

It started early in the season when Alvaro Fernandez scored in stoppage time to earn a draw with the Philadelphia Union.  Fredy Montero would add 1-0 winners against the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC, with the win at Toronto coming when the Sounders were short-handed for most of the second half.

Add in a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake to end their 29-game home unbeaten streak, a 2-1comeback win over Sporting Kansas City to give them their first loss at their new stadium and a 1-0 win to stun FC Dallas and there was certainly a flair for the dramatic.  Then they clinched the Cascadia Cup with a 3-2 win over the Portland Timbers and a 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The biggest, however, may have come just after the win in Dallas, when Seattle went to Monterrey to face the defending winners of the CONCACAF Champions League at Estadio Tecnologico.  One year earlier they took a 2-0 lead into the second half, but gave up three goals in five dramatic minutes to fall 3-2.  This time around, they got a first-half goal from Alvaro Fernandez and clung to it for dear life to come back home with a 1-0 win over Monterrey.  They would also top Herediano in Costa Rica and earn a 2-2 draw with Comunicaciones in Guatemala to advance to the quarterfinals in the Champions League.

“We always tried to stay with some of the regulars,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said.  “I think the first year in CONCACAF sometimes we’d play a whole different group of players.  There are four, five, or six guys that can jump in there and don’t change our rhythm much.”

In order to keep their rhythm, Schmid employs a different travel plan than most, too.  In each of their three matches in the group stage, the Sounders stopped off in Texas for a day of training before resuming their trip one day prior to the match.

“Everybody has to do it the way they want to do it and what they think works best,” Schmid said.  “We think this works best for us and getting appropriate sleep is important in their recovery and their preparation for the game, so we go halfway to Dallas, get a training session in, get a full night sleep and then do the rest of the trip the next day.  We avoid the airport layover and the super long travel day.”

The Sounders fly to Dallas to train on Monday, then to Torreon, Mexico, to train on Tuesday ahead of their quarterfinal match on Wednesday.  Kickoff is slated for 5 pm Pacific with the match televised live on Fox Soccer.

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