TUKWILA, Wash. – Win or go home.
It’s a rather familiar refrain around the Seattle Sounders. Whether it’s the US Open Cup, CONCACAF Champions League or MLS Cup playoffs, the Sounders have played at least 24 matches in which the result would determine whether or not they continued in that competition.
Facing Real Salt Lake on Thursday (10 pm ET; NBC Sports Network, LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com) in the second leg of the Western Conference semifinals with the aggregate score tied 0-0, this game seems a little different than the previous ones.
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“We’ve talked about it for a number of years that if we don’t get it done this year, then things are going to change,” Sounders midfielder Brad Evans said. “The group has been together for four years and we’ve implemented a number of bodies into positions that we needed to. We have the players now that everyone wants from the top down. If there’s any time, the time is now.”
Part of what makes this game so important is that for all the Sounders’ accomplishments – four straight years in the playoffs, three US Open Cup titles and two trips to the CCL quarterfinals – the MLS postseason is the one place they’ve yet to succeed.
In each of the previous three years, Seattle have faced an increasingly difficult task. In 2009, they entered the second leg tied 0-0. In 2010, they were trailing 1-0. Last year, the deficit was 3-0. Each time they ultimately fell short.
The Sounders say those failings, as well as their performance in the first leg, have taught them some lessons.
“We have to come out with the same attitude, the same style of play, the same physicality, everything, and push forward because at the end of the day goals are going to get us through,” Evans said. “I think we’re a fit enough team. We’re used to playing games within four or five days of each other, so it shouldn’t be an excuse. I think guys are rested. I’d like to think we have experience in the playoffs and we have a chip on our shoulder from the past couple years.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.