HERRIMAN, Utah – If you enjoyed the drama of the Seattle Sounders’ 4-3 extratime win over FC Dallas, or if waiting for a clutch game-winner into the 87th minute in Real Salt Lake’s 2-1 win over the Portland Timbers wasn’t enough, expect more of the same when the Sounders host RSL in their Conference Semifinals clash on Wednesday (10 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes in US; TSN1/4, TVAS in Canada).
RSL interim head coach Freddy Juarez gleaned plenty from how Dallas pushed Seattle into overtime and he especially liked their attacking mindset.
“FC Dallas was not afraid to attack, we learned from that,” Juarez said. “If there’s one thing you can’t do, it’s go to Seattle and sit back and absorb and absorb and absorb. Will there be moments that we do that? Yeah we’ll have to, but by design we’re not just going to go there and sit back and nick one goal. We’re going to go and throw our punches and take some punches.”
When Juarez looks at Seattle, he sees a team with a similar style and mentality to his, a factor he believes benefits RSL. Second, he’s already seen his side show the fight needed to win on the road and advance earlier this season. It just needs to come out on Wednesday.
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“[We’re] two teams whose first option is to look to control the ball and try to win the game with ball possession at times,” Juarez said. “Both teams are good on the break. It never becomes a kicking fest. It’s not to say it’s not physical, but it’s two teams that are going to try and go and score.”
Whoever capitalizes will come out on top.
“The main factor is, when we do make them feel uncomfortable, when we’re really dictating the game, is to make sure we score,” RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. “If you don’t make them pay, then it can come back to bite you.”
A back-and-forth match on the road isn’t a concern for RSL, as long as they can keep their heads in the game if they fall behind or are put under heavy pressure.
"You feel it in the air, you feel it in the locker room. Guys are excited & can't wait to get on that field." pic.twitter.com/zQL0gIF2b7— Real Salt Lake (@realsaltlake) October 22, 2019
“We know you go on the road, the first few minutes, as much as you want to control them, a lot of times it’s tough to manage because of the energy of the opponent,” Juarez said. “We’ve been talking a lot about the mental aspect of the game. That’s what pushes you. That’s what lets you have perseverance in the tough moments. That’s what got us through the Portland game – freezing cold weather, the opponent is coming at you, the mental aspect is huge.”
Juarez has seen it from his team on the road, whether it was in their victory at Vancouver on Decision Day presented by AT&T that pushed them into the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference bracket or a 2-1 comeback win at Sporting KC in August. Those are experiences he says they can draw on come Wednesday.
“What we know is we’ve gone ahead on the road and kept the lead. We’ve also come back on the road this year. We’re ready for whatever comes at us. Ready to react,” Juarez said. “Ideally we score first, but if we get scored on first we’re not going to be a team that puts our head down. We’re going to come back and try and get the result.”