Playoffs - 2017 - Western Conference Championship generic image

Western Conference Championship Quote Sheet – Leg 1

NEW YORK (Monday, November 20, 2017) – The Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs’ Western Conference Championship is on the docket this Tuesday as the defending champions Seattle Sounders FC face the Houston Dynamo on Tuesday at sold-out BBVA Compass Stadium. Kickoff is at 9:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Nov. 21, live on FS1, TSN 1/3 and TVA Sports.
 
Houston is enjoying an impressive turnaround season under the helm of first-year coach Wilmer Cabrera, rebounding from a last-place showing in the West during the 2016 season. The Sounders also experienced a late-season turnaround a year ago under the guidance of head coach Brian Schmetzer.
 
MLS Western Conference Final Soundbytes:
 
MLS caught up with both teams heading into Tuesday’s first leg:
 
DEFENDING CHAMPION SEATTLE FORGES ON WITHOUT ‘UNDERDOG’ STATUS
 
Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Cristian Roldan:
On Houston’s turnaround season and the similarities to the 2016 Sounders run to the title:
CR: “I think you gather momentum through the playoffs. A team like Houston can be dangerous. They played Kansas City, and then right after they had to play Portland at home and got a good result at Portland. Like us last year, they are gathering momentum and they’re going to be a tough team to play against because of all the confidence they have going forward. At the same time for us, we’re in a little bit different position. We’re no longer the underdog and we just have to take it to them, play our style and try to get a result in Houston.”
 
On the keys toward the Dynamo’s counterattack game:
CR: “The main thing for us is keeping our shape, and there are certain ways we can do that, from the highest guy on the field to the guy closest to our own goal. We have to maintain that space within 40 yards or so. Houston wants the game to be stretched and we can’t allow that. Our style is a little bit different. We want to possess the ball and keep them in front of us, so in order to do that we have to be in good spots when we have the ball and really break down the counterattack when it happens.”
 
On teammate Clint Dempsey’s MLS Comeback Player of the Year honor:
CR: “It’s well deserved. Coming back from a very serious heart condition is tough – mentally and physically. He even thought about retiring at some point. You never know what’s going to happen, and to have a guy like him on our team is really nice. You saw in the last series he can really change a game and we’re very happy and fortunate to have that.”
 
Seattle Sounders FC forward Will Bruin:
On facing his former Dynamo team with the season on the line:
WB: “It’s going to be fun. It’s a whole different team than it was the previous six years I was there. They have a different style now, so that’s a credit to them for turning over the team. It’s a place I called home, where I lived for six years, and it’s something that will probably more surreal once I get on the field and a chance to get back to MLS Cup for us. … I think [Dynamo head coach] Wilmer Cabrera and [VP/GM] Matt Jordan have done a good job this year with creating that team and making an identity for themselves. They’re definitely a counterattacking team that can hurt you really quickly with their speed on the flanks and they went out and got guys that they knew would fit their style.”
 
On Seattle’s ‘next man up’ approach during an injury-riddled season:
WB: “We’ve had a lot of injuries this year. It’s just been one of those years where guys pick up random injuries. I had a dislocated elbow, and you never really see that in soccer. So it’s been one of those years for things. The mentality from [head coach Brian] Schmetzer is ‘next man up.’ This team is really deep from top to bottom, and that mentality has shown throughout the long season, that we have a bunch of guys who can step in at any moment and still keep a high quality and still get results. That’s helped to guide us to where we are right now.”
 
On Gustav Svensson’s Sweden side ousting four-time World Cup winner Italy in qualifying for Russia:
WB: “That was awesome. Gustav is one of the great guys in our locker room. It was really good to see him get back in with the national team because he was saying it’s been a while. The guys were qualifying for the World Cup and he got in at the right time. Everybody’s ecstatic for him, and we were joking around that there could be a Panama vs. Sweden matchup forthcoming (against Seattle teammate Román Torres).
 
DYNAMO’S TURNAROUND YEAR ADDING TO HOUSTON SPORTS BUZZ
 
Houston Dynamo defender Philippe Senderos:
On adding to the sports buzz in Houston following World Series win:
PS: “It’s an exciting time to be in Houston. After the hurricane (Hurricane Harvey), everyone needed something to cheer on, the people, and to have such a successful year with the Astros and now the basketball (Houston Rockets) is doing really well and they hope to have a very good season, and we’ve done brilliantly, and probably surpassed the expectations of a lot of people. We know a lot of people are waiting for us at home. I think they’re going to fill the stadium. This is a brilliant time to play soccer here in Houston and we will try and give that back to the people who had a tough time.”
 
On the prospects of facing Seattle’s Dempsey, a former Fulham teammate:
PS: “We played together at Fulham for a couple years and he’s done brilliant. He’s fantastic. For him to come back to the U.S. and win a title with Seattle last year, even if he had some [health] issues, and to be back in contention, he’s a legend of MLS and U.S. Soccer, so it’s brilliant to have him back here healthy. The matchup’s going to be interesting for sure because he’s a very talented player. … He’s just very dangerous player, strong and he comes alive around the box. He’s someone to keep an eye on all the time, and he’s the one who makes things happen on that team. We know how dangerous he is.”
 
On Houston’s defensive fortitude heading into series’ first leg:
PS: “In the last game against Portland, a lot of people were saying that all the teams were going through tough times because of injuries, etc., and they didn’t really mention us. We’ve been one of those teams where whoever plays puts in a good shift and works hard for the team, we’ve been able to get past that, and for us that’s not been an excuse. Whoever plays and works as hard as the other teammates, that’s been something that’s worked for us. We don’t believe that we’re better than anyone – we just try and do the job properly and beat everyone. We’re confident in our ability and we’re going to try and continue this.”
 
Houston Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera:
On the Dynamo’s sentiment that they have been an overlooked club all season:
WC: “We know that we’ve been overlooked because we have been against all the statistics. That doesn’t affect us. We have more to win than to lose. At this point we feel strong. We know who we are. We’re not going to think that someone is going to look over our shoulders. We know what kind of team we are. We are humble enough to recognize that, but we are ready to play on the field because everyone on the field is equal.”
 
On the long road still ahead of an MLS Cup:
WC: “It’s not easy to become a winner. You have to overcome a lot of things. We still are far from a championship. We’re still in the process of our work with the conference finals against the favorite team, which is the Seattle Sounders. They are the reigning champions. We have to wait. We know it’s a great opportunity and a great moment for us. We are bringing great expectations, but we still have to play two tough games – one in Houston and one in Seattle. We just need to go slowly and day-by-day.”
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