Already in the 2012 season, the Sounders FC are facing incredibly difficult challenges in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal with Santos Laguna.
Seattle leads the aggregate goal series 2-1, but now will square off with the Mexican club at Estadio Corona of Territorio Santos Modelo, where Santos has taken a stronghold on their opponents.
Over the last two seasons and through four CONCACAF Champions League matches, Santos Laguna has gone 14-3-4, going unbeaten at 4-0-0 in the CCL (including a preliminary round match) and 4-0-2 in the 2012 Clausura season.
However, neither their record nor the score will change Sigi Schmid’s approach to the crucial match on Wednesday.
“I’ve always been a coach that plays it pretty straight up—home or away,” Schmid said. “At home, maybe you’re going to take an additional risk when you’re attacking. When you’re on the road, sometimes you attack and when that attack breaks down, let’s make sure we get back instead of hoping we can steal a ball and attack again. You just have to be a little more honest. When opportunities are there to attack, we’re going to take them.”
With the expectation that Santos will be pressing from the opening kick to gain the equalizer for the series, Seattle will put the focus on possession and quick movement with the ball. Defending as a collective group will also be important, according to Schmid.
That approach has made the Sounders successful over the last three seasons, posting one of the top three road records in MLS in each season, including the best record in the league away from home in 2011.
Additionally, they went 2-0-1 in the CONCACAF Champions League group stage while playing on the road, propelling them into the quarterfinals, giving them a better feeling of what to expect in those types of atmospheres.
“Everybody sort of knows what to expect and that already puts everybody at ease a little more,” Schmid said. “We’ve shown that we can play and that we can be comfortable. That’s the main thing that you take away from those games. It gives you the confidence you can play with quality away from home and you sort of know what to expect.”
After topping Santos 2-1 at CenturyLink Field last week, Brad Evans stated that the Sounders aren’t scared to go on the road in Champions League. This week, he reiterated that comfort on the road, while also tipping his cap to his opponent.
“We’ve done this for three years now. We’re not going to face anything surprising,” he said. “That’s not to say it’s going to be an easy challenge. This is the best team we’re going to face all year. Guys are ready for the challenge and hungry.”
Kickoff is set for 5 pm Pacific Time. The match will be televised live on Fox Soccer and you can follow the live blog on SoundersFC.com or the video stream on CONCACAFchampions.com. The winner of the aggregate goal series will meet the winner of the LA Galaxy-Toronto FC series, which is knotted at 2-2 heading into the second leg Wednesday night at 7 pm Pacific Time.