After securing a 2-1 victory last weekend at CenturyLink Field, Sounders FC will battle FC Dallas in the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinals on Sunday (4:30 pm PST; FOX Sports 1/KIRO Radio 97.3 FM/El Rey 1360 AM). The Rave Green can advance with a win, draw or one-goal loss in which they score multiple times.
Here to provide his thoughts on the second leg is former Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller, a recent inductee of the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
On how the Sounders should approach Sunday’s second leg:
The Sounders aren’t really set up as a defensive team that just sits back and is able to take wave after wave, so I think going into this game, you just approach it the same way. But if the game progresses and it’s still scoreless in the 70th or 75th minute, then your mindset has to change a little bit and you have to understand that a draw is all you need.
At that stage, you have to be very professional and very clinical in the way that you approach the game. You don’t take that extra touch in the middle of the park. You don’t make that square ball. First and foremost, you clear the ball out and deal with things at the other half of the field. You don’t need to keep possession in your own third. Rather, just clear the ball out and understand that a draw gets you through.
On this playoff series featuring youth versus experience:
I think if you look at the first leg, you saw the good and the bad of those criteria for both teams. You saw the pace of Fabian Castillo and the way he was able to create separation out of that lane. Zach Scott and Chad Marshall are both fantastic centerbacks, but if there’s one thing that neither of them has, it’s that pace. So it was just that one situation where Tyrone Mears was a little advanced, and Castillo is capable of outrunning just about every centerback in the league. That’s just who he is.
So they had the speed working well for them, but you also saw the inexperience and youth from FC Dallas. Victor Ulloa lost possession three times in the midfield in dangerous areas, and on the third one [Andreas] Ivanschitz punished him and equalized. So with that youth comes a level of fearlessness, which in some ways is good. But maybe you have to make those mistakes at some stage in your career to learn that you can’t do that. The Sounders used their experience by not panicking when they went a goal down, making adjustments at halftime and coming back to win the match.
On Clint Dempsey rotating to left midfield in recent games:
I think it says a lot about him and the team. But also, when I played with Clint at Fulham, he played left midfield. He would only play up front at times because of the lack of other strikers. Clint played a long part of his career out wide – out on the right and on the left – and he’s so good at linking up with the forwards. So it wasn’t much of a transition for him. In some ways, I think Clint might even be more comfortable out wide. You see how he loves to come back and get the ball deeper so he can get more touches.
You look at some of the top strikers in the world – they’ll have the least amount of touches of any player in a match, but they’ll have two goals. Clint and Oba [Martins] are two players that love to get involved in the play and get touches on the ball. With the addition of Nelson Valdez, who is maybe more of a true striker but can also play out wide, I think it’s a great option for the Sounders. There were some question marks about the chemistry of the team, and I think this shows that the team is focused for a long run in the playoffs.
On Stefan Frei not being a finalist for Goalkeeper of the Year:
I think it’s a little bit unfair. Stefan had a fantastic year. I think sometimes it’s about statistics, and not about the way the individual has played. It’s certainly difficult for journalists and coaches to decide, particularly when you look at the run the Sounders went on when they lost a bunch of games. The statistics don’t always tell the whole story, and I think Stefan deserved to be on that list and could’ve even won it. I don’t think Stefan plays the game to win awards, but he has a lot to be proud of with the season he’s had.