Ahead of the Western Conference Semifinals matchup against Real Salt Lake on Wednesday (7:00 p.m. PT; FS1, FOX Deportes, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM | TICKETS), Seattle Sounders players and coaches reflected on the team’s thrilling 4-3 win over FC Dallas in Round One of the 2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
“We made it challenging on ourselves,” said Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “Against RSL, we need to be clinical.”
Under the league’s new postseason format, teams have combined for 27 goals from the first six matches. It’s an alteration that his led to relentlessly attacking soccer, which has been a boon to fans of the sport.
The changes have also raised the stakes of every second of the game, leading to increased intensity for the players on the pitch.
“You play every ball, every play like it’s the final,” said midfielder Cristian Roldan. “That’s the beauty and the tough part about playing in MLS. It’s tough with all the travel and being a one-game series. It makes things great, but also very nerve-wracking for both teams.”
According to Roldan, who tallied an assist on Raúl Ruidíaz’s opening goal against Dallas, the anxiety-inducing, back-and-forth nature of the match has prepared the team for a run in the postseason.
“The intensity, the fight that Dallas showed, we’re anticipating another game like that,” said Roldan. “And if you anticipate a game like that, you’ll be ready for a fight, for a test… They’ve prepared us for another big game.”
In the playoffs, matches are often decided by which team’s key players rise to the occasion when called upon. Looking back on the win over Dallas, Jordan Morris’ hat trick and Stefan Frei’s herculean performance in extra time are positive indicators that the team is capable of a deep run in the postseason.
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“Thankfully, Jordan pulled us out and Stef played extremely well,” said Roldan. The team was committed and we came out with the victory.
“It was do or die and we have another tough one against RSL. The fact that we’re at home, I feel we have a big advantage with our fans. I’m excited about it.”
Having faced RSL twice already this season, including under the stewardship of Interim Head Coach Freddy Juarez, the Sounders are intimately familiar with their opponent. More specifically, they’re cognizant of the threat posed by Salt Lake’s dynamic, diverse set of attacking players.
“They’re very flexible, very interchangeable,” noted Schmetzer. “They have a very good attacking front four. Obviously, they’ve got talent and experience in the middle of the field. So, we’ll see how they lineup and what their game plan is.”
Between their home field advantage, in-form attacking players and lessons learned from the FC Dallas, the Sounders are built for another crucial home victory on Wednesday night.
“It’s the playoffs," said Schmetzer. "Our team is ready. We like a fast tempo. We want to play fast. We’re at home. We want to be on the front foot. Those are all things we’re going to try and accomplish.”