Two-legged series have not been kind to Seattle.
When the Sounders visit Tigres UANL for the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal on Wednesday (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer), it will mark the beginning of the seventh two-legged series Sigi Schmid’s club has played since joining MLS in 2009. They’ve managed to advance but once, not counting a pair of CCL preliminary-round victories.
Among their more notable failures are twice losing first legs 3-0, and falling 6-1 in the second leg of last year’s CCL quarterfinal against Santos Laguna.
Memories of those performances “will definitely be strongly impressed upon them in the next few days,” Schmid told reporters on a Monday conference call. “It’s like if somebody throws you in a pool and you can’t swim, you either figure out that you want to swim or you never go in the pool again.
“For us, we’ve had some bad results in the first leg of two-legged series, so we have to turn that around or just not make the playoffs anymore and get into those series. I think the team would rather take the first approach of learning how to deal with this.”
If the Sounders are to keep from drowning, they’ll need to do it in the deep end. Tigres are currently Mexico’s hottest team, sitting atop the Liga MX table. They are undefeated in their first nine matches (6-0-3) of the Clausura and boast a league-best plus-12 goal difference.
Seattle did catch a bit of a break, though, as Emmanuel “Tito” Villa has been ruled out of the entire quarterfinal with a calf injury. Villa leads the Liga MX with eight goals.
The Sounders, meanwhile, will be closer to full strength than they were in their regular-season opening loss to the Montreal Impact on Saturday. Among the players held out of the opener that traveled to Mexico with the Sounders are Osvaldo Alonso (suspension), Marc Burch (suspension), David Estrada (ankle injury) and Djimi Traoré (fitness).
Having those players will hopefully allow the Sounders to come back to Seattle with no worse than a one-goal deficit to make up. Of course, they had similarly limited goals in previous away legs.
“We either have to have that composure or we really have to think about finding other people who will have that composure at key moments,” Schmid said.