Dempsey Torres
Mike Fiechtner

After long hiatus, Sounders ready for first leg of Western Conference Championship

The last time the Sounders were in Houston, they were coming off a frustrating 2-1 loss at BBVA Compass Stadium. Clint Dempsey scored a goal in the 58th minute, but the Rave Green couldn’t overcome the multi-goal deficit from the opening 45 minutes. That was the first match of the 2017 campaign – a whopping 261 days ago, and it’s a distant memory for Brian Schmetzer’s club.

“The first match of the season, yeah, we’re trying to forget that,” Schmetzer said with a smile following Monday’s training session.

And for good reason, considering it’s a much different squad today than the one who took the field over seven months ago. In that match, midfielder Gustav Svensson started at right back, Alvaro Fernandez – who left the club in June – played in the midfield, Will Bruin came on for just 14 minutes and Nouhou wasn’t even in the 18. Key midseason acquisitions, such as Víctor Rodríguez, Kelvin Leerdam and Lamar Neagle – were still months away from joining the team.

While it’s worth noting that the Sounders lost in their lone appearance at Houston this season, they feel prepared and ready to go for Tuesday’s first leg of the Western Conference Championship at BBVA Compass Stadium.

“We have tremendous depth and we’ve been preparing for weeks for this game,” midfielder Cristian Roldan told media on Monday afternoon. “Houston is going to be a tough opponent. We have to get that one goal, that one result to bring back to Seattle.”

As Roldan notes, it’s been a long time coming for the Sounders to play a competitive match. Due to the international FIFA break last weekend, it will be nearly a three-week stretch between the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinals and the first leg of the Western Conference Championship. According to Schmetzer, ‘the players just want to play.’

Even more, though, the team just wants to win.

“We all want to win,” Schmetzer said. “We’re a proud franchise, we want to defend our Cup.”