Anytime you can put in a strong performance on the road in the postseason, you’re putting yourself in a great position to contend for a championship.
The Seattle Sounders took a huge step in making their second consecutive MLS Cup final appearance with a 2-0 first leg victory over the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium on Tuesday evening.
The defending champs used first-half goals from Gustav Svensson and former Dynamo forward Will Bruin to down the hosts, who have been strong at home most of the season.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game coming here,” Svensson said. “If you look at the result, I am very happy.”
The Swedish midfielder headed in the Sounders’ opening goal, getting on the end of Nicolas Lodeiro’s cross after 11 minutes. Svensson’s effort beat Joe Willis to the bottom-right corner, giving the Sounders a 1-0 advantage.
Seattle could have extended their lead before the half-hour mark, but Willis came up big for Houston, saving Lodeiro’s penalty kick in the 29th-minute. Despite missing an opportunity to extend their lead, Seattle played the remaining of the match with an extra man as Houston’s Jalil Anibaba was sent off after giving up the penalty.
“To be honest, I think we could have done even better than we did tonight,” Svensson said. “We could have added to the lead, had more possession, and really killed this game off earlier.”
Bruin made the most of his opportunity on Tuesday, heading in the Sounders second goal of the evening before halftime. The 28-year-old netted his 12th goal of the season, which gave the visitors a comfortable advantage from that point on.
“Joevin played a great ball in and I just tried to get my head on it and put it towards goal,” Bruin said. “I was just happy that it went in and it extended our lead.”
The Sounders held the Dynamo to three shots on goal and continued to try to push for even more of an advantage in the second-half.
Lodeiro and Victor Rodriguez had the best opportunities for Brian Schmetzer’s side, while Svensson and Joevin Jones came close as well. Rodriguez’s effort in stoppage time struck the cross-bar, while Lamar Neagle was unable to follow-up.
“Even with the win, we’re a little disappointed that we couldn’t bag another goal or two in the second-half,” Bruin said. “It’s still a good result at the end of the day, now we return home with a two-goal advantage and certainly are not overlooking that second leg whatsoever.”
A name that was in the Sounders starting lineup on Tuesday, that many may have scratched their head at was goalkeeper Tyler Miller. Miller, 24, replaced the injured Stefan Frei in Schmetzer’s starting XI, after the veteran picked up an injury in training ahead of the match.
Tuesday was Miller’s second appearance of the season, and his third over the last two seasons. Regardless of experience, the Woodbury, NJ native shined in the match, keeping out a trio of efforts in the clean sheet.
“I found out two days ago that I would be starting, but my preparation always stayed the same,” Miller said. “At any moment you have to be ready to play and I felt I was ready and had a solid performance.”
The Sounders now return home to CenturyLink Field for the return leg on Nov. 30th, holding a two-goal advantage. Both Frei and forward Jordan Morris could return to the squad for that match.
“Coming back to Seattle with 2-0 in our pockets is a good thing,” Svensson said. “I want us to show our fans that we can score more, and we now have a few days to prepare for the next match.”