TUKWILA, Wash. – The Seattle Sounders are tired of hearing about it, tired of answering the same questions.
They know they’ve dug themselves into a huge hole in the playoffs for a second straight year, and they know it’ll take next to a miracle to rebound from a 3-0 defeat to the LA Galaxy in the second leg of the Western Conference Championship (9 pm ET, ESPN, TSN2/RDS2 in Canada, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
But unlike last fall, when they bombed forward on Real Salt Lake and nearly pulled off the unthinkable, nearly turning around an identical 3-0 aggregate deficit in a frantic second half at CenturyLink Field that left everyone around the club proud of the heart and effort they put forward, there will be no feel-good stories on Sunday if the Sounders fall short again against the Galaxy.
“An acceptable performance is a win,” head coach Sigi Schmid told reporters after training on Saturday. “A win meaning [a] 3-0 or more win, getting ourselves into overtime or winning the series. A 1-0 Pyrrhic victory is not what we’re looking for.”
But Sunday’s match is a tricky one. No one in Sounders camp expects the Galaxy to sit back and protect their lead. In fact, there’s a real concern that the visitors will press in the first half, looking to build to their aggregate lead and build an even higher mountain for Seattle to climb to get back into the series.
And given how prolific Bruce Arena’s crew is on the counterattack – two of their goals in the first leg came directly off Sounders turnovers – Seattle can’t afford to press forward with abandon and leave themselves exposed to LA’s deadly ability on the break.
The Scouting Report: Seattle vs. LA
“If we can get [a goal] early, I think that gives us an advantage,” midfielder Brad Evans told MLSsoccer.com on Saturday. “[The] ideal situation is, you want to get two in the first half and press [and] not do anything too stupid in the second half. But it’s a game of cat and mouse. Just tactically, you’ve got to be aware, you've got to bide your time and finish your chances.”
It’s a balancing act the Sounders will need to figure out quickly, because they could be only 90 minutes from a long offseason that could bring big changes, and one where Evans admits they could spend long hours wondering what-if, especially in last weekend's meltdown in the first leg at the Home Depot Center.
And for that reason, there’s a sense of quiet belief and extremely cautious optimism around the Sounders. Right now, that’s all they have left.
“At the end of the day, I know we’re down 3-0, but we’ve got to go in there with that 'no fear' mentality and go for it,” forward Eddie Johnson told MLSsoccer.com. “We’re down 3-0. We’ve got to take risks and attack and put attacking players around the box and then defend our lives out. We know it’s not going to be an easy task, but nothing’s impossible.”