Two matches into the young 2013 season Seattle Sounders FC has played two very different matches. Against the Montreal Impact the local club gave up few chances and one goal. Against UANL Tigres in a hostile road environment Seattle gave up many chances, but only one goal. Though the circumstances are very different.
“Now we’re in a position where we let one in. No matter how much of the play they had it’s only one-nothing,” Assistant Coach Ezra Hendrickson said on after practice Friday. “We’re still in a good position to come home and win one-nothing, two-nothing. That’s something we’re capable of and we are very confident we can do that. We’re still in a good position. That Montreal game is gone. It is out of our hands. Now we have to focus on Tuesday.”
It is a key difference in approach from league play to the nature of a two-leg aggregate knockout series. The long-term nature of league play means that process means much more than result, but in the short series it is result that matters.
“You can call it luck, call it whatever it is, at the end of the day we’re coming back down just one-nothing. The Montreal game? That’s gone. Even though they didn’t create as many chances they did score that one chance. It’s more frustrating defensively,” Hendrickson explained. “If Tigres beat us three-nothing we’d think they took it to us, but with just the one at the end of the day it was opposite of Montreal.”
It is odd to think about two one-nil losses as opposites. But they were. Tigres was very aggressive defensively, their attack was rapid and multi-pronged. It caused Seattle trouble, but it is unlikely to be replicated at CenturyLink Field.
“They came at us those first fifteen minutes. At home you don’t expect that. You don’t expect them to put the same amount of pressure. Still, we never know. We have to prepare ourselves that they might come with the attitude that if they get one early they put us behind the 8-ball down two-zero. We have to be prepared for it, but you don’t expect it,” Hendrickson notes. “I expect them to come here with the one-nil advantage and not sit back, but with less pressure. Then the atmosphere. It’s going to be at our place. The field is different. One of the key aspects of their game is the long ball where it just sits up over the defenders. At CenturyLink that’s not going to happen. Those balls will just skip right to the keeper.”
That is going to be counter to the atmosphere at The Volcano in Monterrey. It was large, raucous, and vibrant. The stadium was built for their game. On Tuesday that changes.
Down just a single goal Sounders FC needs the type of performance they’ve put forward in the 2nd legs against Real Salt Lake and the LA Galaxy. That is the intent. No more sitting back in a bend but don’t break, instead the attitude is about aggression. It is about channeling passion and atmosphere. The intent is an intelligent attack.
“Yes, we want to put more pressure than we did down there because now we’re at our place and more comfortable. We don’t want to leave ourselves exposed in the back. We don’t want to be so stupid about it that we’re trying to get that goal back in the first five minutes of the game and now we get a counter because they are a good countering team. They’re very technical and they are very fast. We want to put more pressure. We want to step up. We want to be more aggressive, but not to the extent of giving one away in the first five minutes.”
Tuesday night is leg two. It is not a case of being down three-nil. A mere goal separates the two sides. It is a challenge. MLS sides do not beat Liga MX sides in the knockout round. It is a chance at a kind of history, similar in ways to that road win down in Monterrey a year and a half ago. But it is at home, in front of tens of thousands of home fans. It is the chance that the team from coach to player wanted. There was not another miracle win down in Monterrey in 2013, but there is a chance for Seattle to play its own style at home and advance in the continental championship.
“I think we’re capable of getting two. If we come out and score within the first fifteen, twenty minutes they are going to try and get that goal back and might leave themselves open,” Hendrickson is confident. “We’ll see how it all plays out. The comfort is that we’re home now. We’re not down by a large margin. It’s a one goal differential and we know we can get it back.”