VANCOUVER, B.C. – Vancouver Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson said in the buildup to his side's Western Conference Semifinal first leg clash with the Seattle Sounders that he was "expecting a chess match" at BC Place on Sunday evening. That's what he got.
The Cascadian rivals played out a scoreless draw that seemed to leave both teams upbeat heading into Thursday's second leg (10:30 pm ET; FS1, FOX Deportes in US | TSN5, TVAS in Canada), and despite failing to make anything from their homefield advantage in the first match, Robinson certainly doesn't feel that it was a missed opportunity for the Whitecaps.
"It was important we didn't concede today," Robinson told reporters after the match. "In two-legged ties, conceding at home is a no-no. I learned that years ago. That was the mindset.
"We can be better going forward, but we set up slightly different tactically today and it worked. They defended for their lives. They were excellent and limited a very good Seattle team to no chance. Credit to them for that, so fairly happy."
The match was almost the polar opposite for the Whitecaps from their entertaining 5-0 rout of the San Jose Earthquakes in Wednesday's first round Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoff game.
It was a far more cautious Whitecaps team that took to the pitch against the Sounders, with Robinson revealing that he had watched Vancouver's two-leg semifinal against Portland again from two years ago and didn't want to give anything away in the home leg.
"Cautious, in relation to our attacking play, yeah possibly," Robinson admitted. "That was based on personnel as well, but we had to make decisions with the two guys that were phenomenal on Wednesday night. We did, so it was a little bit cautious. We went to try and win the game, you saw that when we got bits of momentum, we huffed and puffed but were unable to get that clear opportunity."
Those two missing players were midfielders Yordy Reyna and Cristian Techera.
Both players had taken knocks in that midweek win over San Jose and after taking advice from his medical staff, Robinson decided it was safer to play them for just the last half hour or so of the first leg, to avoid the risk of them breaking down and missing the second.
Missing that influential midfield tandem did force Robinson into a different gameplan and that more cautious approach.
"I would have played the same team if those guys were fit, but they weren't," Robinson said. "I think you saw in the 20, 30 minutes that they played, that it was the right decision because they weren't as lively as they were on Wednesday night.
"Everything plays into your mind when you play a two-legged tie, and for those two guys especially, it's worked out very well because hopefully they'll be fit [on Thursday]."
Vancouver stuttered offensively throughout the match, failing to muster a single shot on target. If they are to win the tie in Seattle, that will need to change, and Robinson is fully confident that it will.
"I'm sure it will be a different game on Thursday," Robinson said. "They'll be confident, but so are my team. We're quietly confident."