Warshaw: The clear paths - plural - for Concacaf Champions League victory

With Concacaf Champions League action resuming tonight, let's revisit the projected outcomes and see where each matchup stands:

New York Red Bulls vs. Club Tijuana

Tuesday, March 13 | 8pm ET
UDN, UnivisionDeportes.com; go90.com

The New York Red Bulls and Club Tijuana square off at 8 p.m. ET

LAST WEEK: We thought the Red Bulls needed to take advantage of their naiveté.

THIS WEEK: Be the opposite of naive. Be prepared for hell, and learn to enjoy it.

Prior to the first leg, it was all about showing confidence. RBNY demonstrated – first in Tijuana, and then again in Saturday's MLS rout of Portland – that they have plenty of swagger right now. Jesse Marsch has instilled an incredible amount of belief into his young group.

Now they need to show experience – or at least fake it.

The success in Leg 1 doesn’t make this second game any easier; it actually makes it more difficult. Everyone around MLS raised their glass to Red Bulls, and it almost felt like they'd had accomplished something. They haven’t. Xolos, needing two goals, are going to attack relentlessly.

One of the hardest parts of being a player is bracing yourself for a tough game: When players close their eyes at night, they generally envision walking off the field a 3-0 victor, hoping the game is going to be easier than it sounds. It’s tough to get yourself prepared to go through hell for 90 minutes. Sometimes, the game gets to the 80th minute and you’ve been on the ropes and you’re mentally exhausted and you just want it to end.

The younger you are, the more likely you are to be shaken by the emotion of the moment. I suspect the action is going to be hairy, and the Red Bulls players can’t be caught off guard.

There are nuances to seeing a game out – dark arts of time wasting and manipulation – particularly on the road. The first step, however, is knowing your in hell, and not minding.  

Toronto FC at Tigres UANL

Tuesday, March 13 | 10pm ET
UDN, UnivisionDeportes.com; go90.com

Toronto FC are in Monterrey for a tough Leg 2 vs. Tigres UANL.

LAST WEEK: Michael Bradley needed to be at his best in defensive transitions, helping to ensure Tigres didn't strike on the counter.

THIS WEEK: Don’t let anyone get isolated defensively.

With a one-goal aggregate lead heading into Monterrey, it's likely that Toronto FC will sit deep defensively for much of the game. Tigres are really good, and Toronto are really smart. While Toronto would undoubtedly rather go mano a mano with the Mexican powerhouse, they know their best chance is to sit deep and look for a counter. Greg Vanney didn’t win 2017 MLS Coach of the Year for nothin’.

When teams attack against a packed defense, the general plan is to get the ball wide and try to create a 1-v-1 situation. We will probably see Tigres frequently switch the ball side-to-side in front an eight-man block of Toronto defenders. In moving the ball from laterally, Tigres will be seeking a chance to isolate a player, finding a situation where they only have to beat one Toronto defender rather than three or four.

Last week, Eduardo Vargas torched Toronto’s Chris Mavinga for Tigres' lone goal. Mavinga is a very good player, but Vargas is a starter for the Chilean National Team that won the Copa America Centenario only two years ago. You simply don’t want to have to deal with Vargas or Enner Valencia or André-Pierre Gignac 1-v-1.

The defensive plan always involves ensuring players don't get isolated, but sometimes you have to pick your poison. Here's tonight's antidote: drop Jozy Altidore or Sebastian Giovinco deeper to help; simply don’t pressure the ball if you don’t have support; continue to drop and keep numbers up in the most dangerous areas of the field.

More than anything, they need to communicate in advance to make sure players don’t get separated from the group. I feel bad saying the game plan tonight is to “Do what you often do, just … better,” but sometimes that’s the best answer. Soccer is always about focus. It’s more true tonight than ever for Toronto.

Seattle Sounders FC at C.D. Guadalajara

Wednesday, March 14 | 10pm ET
UDN, UnivisionDeportes.com; go90.com

The Seattle Sounders close out the CCL quarterfinals in Guadalajara.

LAST WEEK: Simply put, the Seattle Sounders needed to put an extra emphasis on winning outright in the opening leg.

THIS WEEK: Worry more about not conceding in the opening 30 minutes more than scoring early on.

Some people might suggest it’s vital for Seattle to go for the early away goal – since Chivas didn’t score in Seattle, an away goal for the Sounders would force Chivas to score three, basically wrapping the series – but that vision doesn’t incorporate the bigger picture.

Obviously, it would be great for Seattle to score early, but it doesn’t make sense in terms of risk-reward. As we said prior to the first leg, Chivas are low on confidence and look like a team ready to combust; I’m a firm believer that you let those teams blow up on their own. If you attack, seeking the big knockout punch, it’s more likely that they counter you and get their confidence back. It's MUCH harder to score against a deep, organized team than it is to do so in transition. You have to decide: Is it more likely that they counterpunch while you are attacking, or that they break you down through the run of play?

It seems much less likely that Chivas will get an early goal if Seattle sits deep and soaks up the pressure. Head coach Brian Schmetzer needs to tell his team – specifically the outside defenders – to play it conservative early: Don’t make long runs forward; keep a block of six back at all times; don’t give them any space to exploit; make Chivas earn everything. Let Clint Dempsey and Nico Lodeiro try to make a special play on the other end.

The longer the game drags on in a draw, the more Chivas will likely begin to scramble. Remember, Chivas are currently 16th in Liga MX – a virtual disaster for the club. The players and staff have a tremendous amount of pressure riding on CCL success.

Ultimately, Seattle can – and it says here, will – get the decisive away goal. If Seattle reach the 30th minute scoreless, they should feel good about their chances.

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