VANCOUVER, B.C. – Sunday's first leg of the Western Conference Semfinal between Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the Seattle Sounders may have been far removed from a playoff classic, but the 0-0 draw certainly set up a tantalizing return leg at CenturyLink Field on Thursday (10:30 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes; TSN5, TVAS).
The second leg should prove a far different match from Sunday's clash, which featured a solitary shot on goal. That came from the Sounders, as Vancouver "huffed and puffed" without really threatening, happy to sit back and ensure they didn't give up a crucial away goal.
That sort of style can only take Carl Robinson's squad so far. They're now in what is essentially a straight knockout tie, though one with the added benefit for them that a draw with a goal would put them through.
So, what will it take for Vancouver to get the job done?
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"A little bit of luck," Robinson said. "We know we can play a little bit better, but it's not about how well you play. I've been in enough games where you play really well and don't win the game and you're out, in finals and cup knockout football, and that's where we are.
"So it's about finding a way to win. We've done it all season. We have to go on the road, to a difficult place. They're the reigning champs for a reason, they're a good team. We have to find a way to win and we will certainly try and find a way to win. How that way is, I can't tell you because then I'd be giving away my secrets."
While Robinson might be keeping his cards closely to his chest, for Whitecaps captain Kendall Waston, the path to a Vancouver victory is a simple one – keep calm and carry on as normal.
"We have to keep playing the way we played throughout the 34 games," Waston said. "What gave us success until now, keep doing that. Obviously, if we have more possession of the ball, it would be easier because we have to run behind the ball and get it. Seattle, at their place, they play very well, but we’re a very dangerous team on the counterattack."
And therein lies one of the key factors behind the Whitecaps' confidence heading into Leg 2. Though they offered little attacking aptitude on Sunday, the way they destroyed San Jose in the Knockout Round -- a resounding 5-0 victory just four days earlier -- shows just what this Vancouver squad is capable of in full flow.
The Whitecaps also earned the best away record in the West this season (6-9-2), proving they can head to difficult locales and take results, even with minimal possession. Their counterattacking style is almost tailor-made for the very scenario they face.
"We’re good on the road," said rookie right back Jake Nerwinski. "We can score. We’re really comfortable going into that next match."