The Sounders FC has a daunting task ahead of them when they meet Santos Laguna in the second leg of their semifinal series in the CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday in Torreon, Mexico.
According to Eddie Johnson, Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid channeled Coach Norman Dale in the 1986 movie Hoosiers when he prepared the team to face that task to the team this week.
In the movie, the underdog team from Hickory heads to the biggest stage when they play in the state championship game. When the team arrives at Butler Fieldhouse – the site of the championship game – the coach, played by Gene Hackman, has players measure the dimensions to emphasize that while the challenge may be difficult, the team is prepared for the test.
“Nothing changes from what we do here at practice. At the end of the day, it’s a soccer game. The ball doesn’t change. The goal size doesn’t change. The pitch doesn’t change,” Johnson said. “It’s just up to us at the end of the day. How much do we want it?”
The Sounders trail 1-0 after the first leg, just as they did in the first leg of the quarterfinal series against Tigres when they came back with a 3-1 win in the second leg to become the first MLS club to win a series against a Mexican club in the Champions League. There are many differences – not the least of which is that Seattle hosted the second leg of the series against Tigres. However, winning that series can go a long way in fueling the team’s belief that they can accomplish something special on Tuesday.
They are far from naïve about the challenge ahead though.
“It’s going to be difficult. We have to be disciplined. We can’t go down there and say, ‘Our objective is we have to score, score, score, score.’ We can’t give anything up,” Schmid said. “Anything we give up just makes it that much harder at the other end. We want it to be a situation where we don’t give anything up and we catch a goal and we force them to start taking risks and then hopefully we can catch another goal.”
Goals have not been easy to come by for the Sounders yet this year though.
In four matches in MLS play, they have two goals and in three Champions League bouts, they have the three second-half goals against Tigres in the second leg. That will need to change if the Sounders are going to turn around their slow start to the 2013 season.
“We’ve been a little unfortunate. We haven’t been getting the results we’ve wanted, but we still have a very good team here and it’s just a matter of time before things get right,” Johnson said. “We’re still growing as a team. We have a lot of new faces here and there are still guys battling injuries and guys trying to find themselves within the team. Of course it’s frustrating, but it’s a good challenge for us. Each team hits a spell during the year that they face adversity. Things are going to get right.”
Kickoff for Tuesday’s match is scheduled for5 pm PT, with television coverage on Fox Soccer and the live blog on SoundersFC.com and live updates on Twitter by following @livesounders.