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Sounders secure dominant win in CCL Quarterfinals but know the job isn't done yet

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The Seattle Sounders entered Tuesday’s first leg of the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals against Mexico’s Club León off back-to-back losses to open the Major League Soccer season. Yet, all they did was take a commanding 3-0 series lead heading into the return leg at Estadio León next Thursday (5:30 p.m. PT).

Asked if he expected this result, Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer was succinct: “Yep.”

It wasn’t just that Seattle walked away with a three-goal advantage and kept a clean sheet to prevent an all-important away goal. It was how the Sounders did it. Despite being out-possessed more than 2:1, they took León to the woodshed, outshooting them 14-3 and finishing with an Expected Goals advantage of 3.18xG to 0.13xG.

“[Club Director of Goalkeeping Tommy Dutra] called it before the game even started,” noted Schmetzer. “He said, ‘The guys are into it.’ Stef \[Frei\] was good in his warmup, I thought we had a couple of good days of training.”

Tuesday’s win was cathartic in a way. Much has been made about the Sounders’ performances so far in MLS, but they continue to show out in Champions League, posting an 8-0 aggregate score across three matches. This opening leg win proved what the Sounders still believe: that they have one of the most talented teams in the region.

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“We were all focused,” said Fredy Montero, who recorded a first-half brace to extend his club record for CCL and total goals scored. “We knew what it would take to win at home after two difficult results [in MLS]. Games like this, you have to bring all your experience, all your talent and all your energy to win.”

Added Jordan Morris, who provided an insurance tally in the 90th minute: “We have an incredibly deep team and we knew after two tough performances that we needed to bounce back. What I was really proud of was that it was a team effort. You saw us all on the same page defending and made it really difficult for them to break us down. They’re a good team, and to limit them to not a ton of chances was a big goal of ours.”

The Sounders aren’t overlooking a massive home clash on national television with the LA Galaxy on Saturday (12:55 p.m. PT; FOX, FOX Deportes, 1090 KJR AM | TICKETS), Schmetzer made sure to mention as much. But as soon as that match is in the rearview, all focus is on earning a result in León to return to the CCL semifinals for the second time in club history.

Seattle is not letting itself look too far ahead, though. The club knows how precarious heading to Mexico protecting a lead can be, especially in a competition that no MLS team has ever won. Schmetzer has already begun messaging that it’s only halftime of this tie, and that there is still a job to be done next Thursday.

“3-0 might seem like we are the favorites, but I already warned them that we’re not the favorites and that we must approach the [second leg] in the same fashion,” Schmetzer said. “In the first 30 minutes, I know they’re going to come at us with everything that they have. If we can withstand the first 30 minutes, maybe go into halftime or maybe get a goal in transition, it means they have to score five.

“We are not going to say that we’ve already won this. It’s far from over. We’re too smart for that.”

Still, the Sounders are hoping this positive momentum can serve as a buoy for Saturday’s MLS showdown and springboard them through the CCL quarterfinals and beyond.

“What I was happy with was that our team played the way I believe they could, that they put the effort and intensity into the game,” said Schmetzer. “That is what I’m most proud of.”

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