The Seattle Sounders secured a well-deserved 1-0 win over Chivas last Wednesday at CenturyLink Field in the first quarterfinal leg of CONCACAF Champions League. Seattle held serve at home and by doing so, put most of the pressure on Chivas to answer.
The Sounders have a great opportunity to return to the CCL semifinals, but they know the work is only halfway done. A massive test looms this Wednesday at Estadio Akron in Guadalajara in front of 46,000 fans.
“It’s going to be crazy especially after all the first legs of MLS teams’ success,” said forward Will Bruin, referencing the Sounders, New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC’s wins over Liga MX sides last week. “I don’t think that the [Mexican teams] are going to be very happy with that. It’s going to be rowdy, it’s going to be loud and we’re going to have to stay together as a group to be able to get a result.”
Added midfielder Cristian Roldan: “We’re fired up not only for the team and the fans who we’re going to play against, but also the individual players and how I can match up to them, how our team can match up to them. Obviously their payroll is a lot more than ours. They’ve historically been known as a better team, but at the present moment, I feel pretty good about our chances and playing in front of their fans.”
The Sounders have a better understanding of the quality of their opponent from Leg One, a mobile side that loves to get up and down and play at a high tempo. The pace was far more frenetic than a typical Major League Soccer match with both teams trying to catch the other off-balance.
Head Coach Brian Schmetzer mentioned how impressed he was with Chivas’ organization and their fluidity in the midfield, being able to interchange and combine all over the field. It’s something Seattle will be hoping to control in Leg Two.
“They were playing almost man to man at times, and at times we were pinned in because we couldn’t find that pass,” said Roldan. “I thought they had a lot of quality in the midfield and in the back. They played out of situations really well, I thought they were very technical.
“Gustav [Svensson] and I, what we’ve been training is eliminating the 20-yard space in the midfield where they can really hurt you,” Roldan continued. “We try to play inside-out and let them play outside and try to avoid those really crafty attacking midfielders to turn and get a shot off or a chance on goal.”
One way for the Sounders to relieve some pressure and open up the game is to find an all-important away goal. Should Seattle score, Chivas would need three goals to advance because even a 2-2 aggregate tie would send the Sounders through because of the away goals tiebreaker. Scoring would force Chivas to attack more, but it would also vacate tons of space in the midfield and on their back line to potentially ice the series on a counter.
“We’re going to have to have a lot of pressure and maintain solid shape defensively,” said Bruin. “We have the talent to play. We’re going to want to combine and play through the middle and out wide. If we keep the ball and are smart with our possession, they might start chasing the game, and then we pick our chances to go. We’ve got the quality to do it, now we’ve just got to do it.”