The Western Conference Semifinal series between Sounders FC and the Portland Timbers is now at halftime.
That is Seattle’s approach as it goes into the second leg on Thursday at Portland’s JELD-WEN Field facing a 2-1 deficit after the first leg on Saturday night at CenturyLink Field.
“It’s halftime of the game. We feel very confident we can go to Portland and win,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “Just as Portland came here and won, we feel very confident we can go there and win. We just have to go down there and play a good second half.”
In the aggregate-goal series, Seattle needs just to win the match by one goal to force overtime, as away goals is not a tie-breaker in the series. A two-goal victory would advance the Sounders to the Western Conference Championships.
Going into the series, Seattle knew it would need a victory to advance regardless of Saturday’s outcome, so all that changed with the 2-1 result is where that victory needs to occur. After outshooting Portland 20-10 on Saturday and holding nearly 60-percent of the possession, Sounders FC is confident that the series is far from over.
“On any given day, we have the quality that we can get the job done,” said forward Clint Dempsey, who had six shots on the night. “We have the belief in ourselves and all you can do is go out there and play. In this league, all the teams are pretty evenly matched and anything can happen.”
A 90th-minute goal by Osvaldo Alonso shifted the mentality going into the second leg from a desperate side in need of two goals to a team that simply needs to take advantage of opportunities when they come.
“That goal was huge for us. We were so unlucky today,” said goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann. “We were putting them under tons of pressure. Obviously that goal is huge for us.”
Added midfielder Mauro Rosales, “The energy and the willingness to put effort in the team was there. We had a couple of offensive chances that we missed, but I think scoring the late goal was really good for our team.”
With four days between matches, Sounders FC will also have a chance to rest players after a hectic week of three matches in seven days. It started with a 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy on Sunday in the regular season finale and continued with a 2-0 win over Colorado on Wednesday in the Knockout Round.
The time may mean that Seattle will have defender DeAndre Yedlin and forward Obafemi Martins available, which was made even more vital by an injury to Zach Scott that forced him to leave the match on Saturday and Lamar Neagle picking up his second yellow card of the playoffs, making him ineligible for the second leg on Thursday.
Yedlin, for one, will be ready to play after picking up an ankle injury against the Rapids on Wednesday.
“He’ll be ready. It was touch-and-go today, but he’s a young player,” Schmid said. “We’ve got to see where Oba is. Hopefully he will be able to play some in the next game. Obviously Lamar does a lot of work for us. He hasn’t had the production, necessarily, but he has gotten close and has been unlucky at times. For sure we are going to miss his work rate, but we will figure it out.”
Kickoff for the second leg is scheduled for 8 pm PT. The match will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network.