Sounders FC has a simple task ahead of them in the second leg of their quarterfinal matchup with Tigres UANL in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Win by two or more goals and the Sounders advance to the tournament semifinals for the first time in club history and move one step closer to their quest of becoming the first MLS club to win the Champions League, not to mention become the first MLS side to oust a Mexican club in the competitions short history. Win by 1-0 and force overtime, where it becomes winner-take-all over the two 15-minute overtime, with a shootout to follow if no winner can be determined. Anything less and the Seattle’s run in the Champions League will come to an end.
After a 1-0 defeat in the first leg of the series in Monterrey, Mexico, on Wednesday, Sounders FC has plenty to be optimistic about heading into the second leg.
While they were outshot 18-3 in the first leg, that is actually a point of optimism to know they can get more out of their offense than they have in their first two matches of 2013, where they have emerged without a goal against the Montreal Impact in MLS play and Tigres in Champions League.
“We had opportunities,” said forward Eddie Johnson, who led the Sounders with 14 goals in 2012. “If I wasn’t getting opportunities, then it would be a completely different story. For me, it’s all about putting my chances away.”
The Sounders have had experience dropping a series-opener on the road before in Champions League, coming back to beat San Francisco of Panama in the preliminary round in 2011 after falling behind 1-0 in Panama. They have also fallen behind 3-0 in the MLS Cup playoffs to Real Salt Lake in 2011 and the LA Galaxy in 2012, coming back with a strong showing that fell just short in both instances in the return leg at CenturyLink Field.
The 1-0 deficit is hardly something they are incapable of overcoming, but as head coach Sigi Schmid said, they will have to improve on their performance to mount the comeback needed to reach the semifinals.
“We need to play better soccer. We need to do a better job possessing the ball. We need to create attacking movements of our own. We need to play with that confidence. We need to put more pressure on their midfield so that we can win the ball back a little bit sooner,” Schmid said. “Early in the game we turned the ball over at times when we shouldn't have turned it over, so we need to make sure we avoid those.”
To midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, who looked very much like the player who earned MLS Best XI honors in 2012 during the first leg, the deciding game in the series will come down to energy for the homestanding Sounders.
“We have to play like the last game against the Galaxy. From the first minute to the last minute we have to have high energy in this game,” he said. “We’re disappointed that we lost, but one-zero is not bad. We have a chance to play in Seattle and win this thing. It’s going to be a tough game, but we have a good chance to win it.”
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. PT, with television coverage on Fox Soccer and a radio broadcast on KIRO Radio 97.3. Buy tickets here.