TUKWILA, Wash. – Brad Evans has often said that if the Seattle Sounders could play every match like it was potentially the final game of their season, they’d be almost unbeatable.
The Sounders will get another chance to put that theory to the test when they face the Portland Timbers in the second leg of their Western Conference Semifinals on Thursday (11 pm ET, NBCSN, Univision Deportes, TSN2 in Canada). The Timbers currently lead the aggregate-goal series 2-1.
“The bottom line is that’s how we have to approach this game,” Evans said on Monday. “It’s another knockout game, we’re trailing, and we can’t just sit back and say, ‘I hope they don’t score.’ We’re going to impose our game on them from minute 1. We’ve found success in that this year, in coming out hot, really pressing the game. I think we’ve been a better team in that style of play.”
In each of the past two seasons, the Sounders have played some of their best games when their backs were against the wall, winning three straight second legs. Unfortunately, the result was only good enough to send them through once as they came in trailing by three goals in two of those series.
The hill Seattle must climb in this game is not nearly as daunting, as simply winning by a goal would at least send the game to overtime.
“The reality is this is the best situation we’ve been in since the first year,” Evans said. “Even though it’s a loss at home, this is the best opportunity we’ve been given in the last few years.”
In order to make good on the opportunity, the Sounders seem comfortable with the idea of leaning on some of their more accomplished players.
“This is where the big players step up,” Sounders forward Eddie Johnson said. “Guys like Clint [Dempsey], guys like Oba [Martins], guys like myself, guys like Brad, just to name a few. This is who the team is relying on. It’s up to us to be on our game. When we’re on our game, it becomes contagious.”
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Evans admitted that putting the weight of expectations on a handful of players might not be entirely fair. But he was also willing to accept it.
“It’s guys like us who have been in situations like this before,” he said. “If we don’t, we kind of look [weak]. So we have to step up and take it on our shoulders. We’ve gone far too long without getting where we want to go.”