The Seattle Sounders did enough in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matchup with Chivas de Guadalajara to feel a little comfortable heading into Wednesday’s second leg.
Brian Schmetzer’s team hold a slim 1-0 advantage going into the Estadio Akron. The Sounders achieved a key goal of not conceding an away goal to the Mexican side at CenturyLink Field, but they know Chivas is going to have the same goal in mind as it looks to finish off the tie at home.
The players are more than aware of the challenge a second leg on the road possesses, especially after MLS’ domination in the first leg with three wins over Liga MX sides.
“It’s going to be crazy especially after all the first legs of MLS teams’ success,” Sounders forward Will Bruin said. “I don’t think that the [Mexican teams] are going to be very happy with that. It’s going to be rowdy, it’s going to be loud and we’re going to have to stay together as a group to be able to get a result.”
Individual matchups throughout the field also have the Sounders ready for the fight they’ll receive on Wednesday night.
Chivas boasts a roster headlined by Mexican internationals Carlos Salcido, Oswaldo Alanis, and Orbelin Pineda.
The key for the Sounders, according to midfielder Cristian Roldan, is to limit the space in the middle of the park for players like Pineda to operate in.
“Gustav Svensson and I, what we’ve been training is eliminating the 20-yard space in the midfield where they can really hurt you,” Roldan said. “We try to play inside-out and let them play outside and try to avoid those really crafty attacking midfielders to turn and get a shot off or a chance on goal.”
Unlike the New York Red Bulls, the Sounders had the weekend off to focus solely on the Champions League.
Of course, one week off isn’t going to fix the Jordan Morris-sized hole in the attack, but the Sounders have an experienced forward in Bruin, who complements Clint Dempsey well at the top of the Sounders formation.
Dempsey, who has decades of experience playing against Mexican opposition for club and country, could be the X-factor for the Sounders, as he poaches a valuable away goal at some point of the contest.
The real key for the Sounders will be the performance of the defensive spine that includes center backs Roman Torres and Chad Marshall, as well as Roldan and Svensson in midfield.
If those four players are able to bottle up any movement from Chivas, it will force the Mexican side to chip in crosses, which could play into the Sounders favor since Torres and Marshall are great in the air.
As long as the Sounders full backs are able to limit scoring opportunities and the duo of Bruin and Dempsey can alleviate the pressure at times, the MLS club should be able to thrive south of the border.
As simple as it sounds, the goal for the Sounders is to play their game, make sure they remain organized and finish the chances that do come their way.
“We’re going to have to have a lot of pressure and maintain solid shape defensively,” Bruin said. “We have the talent to play. We’re going to want to combine and play through the middle and out wide. If we keep the ball and are smart with our possession, they might start chasing the game, and then we pick our chances to go. We’ve got the quality to do it, now we’ve just got to do it.”