The match featured little attacking fireworks to speak of, as the Cascadia rivals combined for just 0.88 expected goals per ESPN's Paul Carr, good for the fewest of any of MLS’s combined 379 regular and postseason games this season.
But considering the circumstances, Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said he’s not too concerned with the aesthetics.
Playing without a litany of key contributors due to a combination of injuries and a red card suspension to Clint Dempsey, the Sounders couldn’t manage to break through with an all-important road goal on Sunday. But they also managed to squelch the Whitecaps’ attack and maintain a clean sheet of their own, leaving the series scoreless on aggregate heading into Thursday’s second leg at CenturyLink Field (10:30 pm ET; FS1, FOX Deportes in US | TSN5, TVAS in Canada).
“One of our goals was to get a clean sheet,” Schmetzer told reporters after the game. “That was one goal out of two or three and we accomplished that one. Second goal would have been to score an away goal. We didn’t accomplish that. So, we will absolutely watch the tape, digest this game and then prepare for Thursday.”
The scoreless deadlock makes Seattle’s next objective a simple one: Win on Thursday and advance to the Western Conference Championship.
While he acknowledged that he’d probably sleep a little bit easier had Seattle managed to find that road goal, Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan also said he feels as though the Sounders have ample reason to like their chances going into the second leg without having conceded.
“I’ll take that at home,” Roldan said. “If it was away in Vancouver [in the second leg], it would be different. But I like our chances at home. We play attacking soccer [there] and we’re bound to score goals.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who also pointed to Seattle’s dominant home form this season as one potential reason to think the second leg could feature more goals. The Sounders posted an 11W-1L-5D mark within the notoriously hostile confines of CenturyLink this season and also blasted the Whitecaps 3-0 the last time the sides met there on Sept. 27.
“You have to keep in mind that we were the away team,” Frei said. “So, if we were cautious, they were even more cautious than we were. Yes, we understand that there’s an away goal rule, but you can’t bank on that.
“They have to score now, a 0-0 tie isn’t going to do anything for them at our place. And we fancy our chances at home. We’ve established a really good home record over this year and we’re going to take it to them.”