Sounders FC vs. Portland Timbers
MLS Cup Playoffs; Western Conference Semifinals
November 7, 2013, 8 pm PT; JELD-WEN Field
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Network; 97.3 FM
Over the past two years, Sounders FC has had mixed results in the MLS Cup Playoffs. One thing that has remained solid, though, has been its record in knockout games and that is just one reason why the club is confident heading to Portland for the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinal series on Thursday night.
Although the comeback efforts have fallen short on two occasions, those three-goal deficits against Real Salt Lake in 2011 and the LA Galaxy in 2012 were veritable mountains in comparison to the 2-1 advantage held by Portland entering the second leg. All it will take is a continuation of the effort in the first leg on Saturday, in which Seattle outshot Portland 20-10 while narrowly missing on several occasions.
“We’re confident that we can go down there and get a result and get a win. Our story over the last few games has been the ability to get off the mark with that first goal. In every game, we’ve had the first really good opportunity. We just need that smidgen of good fortune,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “We also felt confident in the way we played. We didn’t think that they pulled us apart. They had some opportunities on counters, but even that wasn’t extreme.”
With no away goals tiebreaker, Seattle needs a one-goal victory to force overtime and anything more will win the series outright.
It all starts with that first goal, though.
An early goal can make all the difference in the world for Seattle’s confidence and has shown to be an indicator of success for Sounders FC. The club currently has a 49-game unbeaten streak when it scores first, going 38-0-11 for the longest active streak and second-longest streak in MLS history.
Although scoring early may be optimal, Schmid also let his team know this week that the time of the goal, nor the beauty of the goal, don’t matter as much as getting on the board first.
“We need to get a goal. I don’t care if we get that goal in the first five minutes or the last five. At the end of the day, we need to win the game,” Schmid said. “At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. I don’t care if it’s pretty or ugly. I don’t care if the set pieces are pretty or ugly. I don’t care if it’s a set piece goal or a deflection goal – in fact we’d appreciate a deflection goal. We haven’t had one of those in a while. Anything like that counts for us.”
The magnitude of the match – a must-win match on the road against the club’s biggest rival – isn’t lost on the players either. They know the monumental task ahead and that they have the ability to overcome that obstacle.
“It’s an opportunity to go down there and do something special,” Clint Dempsey said. “I think we’ve got a quality in this team that we can get the job done. We just have to believe in ourselves and work hard and the rest will take care of itself.”
Seattle will play without the suspended Lamar Neagle, who received yellow cards in each of Sounders FC’s first two playoff matches, but could see the return of Obafemi Martins and DeAndre Yedlin from injury and Michael Gspurning from suspension.
Kickoff for Thursday’s match is scheduled for 8 pm PT on NBC Sports Network.