Sigi has not changed his coaching strategy when it comes to the playoffs or the regular season while playing with a lead or just wanting a result away from home.
It is the Sigi that came in 2009. He is the same Sigi that won MLS Cup at Columbus and the same one that won it with the LA Galaxy. He was fired by the Galaxy not because he won MLS Cup but because of the style of play he employed. So I suspect he was the same at UCLA (although I never saw them play I have only read articles). There is little or no chance of him changing now or anytime in the future.
Sigi’s basic game day philosophy is when you have a seemingly comfortable 2 goal advantage it is time to defend. When it is late in the game and leading it is time to defend. When it is late in the game on the road and a tie is a good enough result it is time to bunker.
This is why it is rare for a Sigi coached team to blow out teams even though he almost always has superior players on the pitch and on the bench. The Sounders have had blow out games but that’s when addition goals were scored on counter attacks or great individual efforts. The Sounders do not send players into the box to help when they are trying defend a lead in order to avoid a counter attack. So that leaves the striker(s) up top to score by themselves.
This is considered sound football strategy by many. However, there are times it is not what fans want to see or attack minded coaches when they see an opportunity to put a team away leaving no doubt of the outcome and no chance for a comeback. Essentially breaking the other team's spirit or will to fight. Sigi always errors on the side of caution and I have yet to see him keep attacking with a 3 goal lead. Never have we seen the Sounders destroy a team with relentless attacks after going up by 2-3 goals. Example: In Chivas final year 2014 we had a 4 goal lead going into the halftime break. We could have just kept up the pressure and left no doubt and continued to dominated them, but how did that turn out? (2-4) The Sounders won, but the game was still in doubt as Chivas was pressing having gotten 2 goals back, one in the 51st minute and the second in 60th minute.
Sigi plays for an away tie rather than going for the jugular and getting a win even when the Sounders are up a man or are clearly the better team on the day. Yes you open yourself up to being scored on and losing but by going for it you’re utilizing the personal you have assembled which is an attack minded team. When you have an attack minded team and you sit back those attackers get bored, stagnate in thought, and immobile in actions and worse second guessing their instinct to attack.
Whenever the Sounders go up by 2 or more goals I know as fans we are yelling "put them to the sword" "run up the score" "leave no doubt" "make a statement" and other expressions wanting our team not just win but to dominate teams. Then the team sits back and defends or just passes the ball to death with little or no intention of going to goal unless it is glaring them in the face and the other team is daring them to shoot.
Joe Roth when he bought the team stated the philosophy of the team was to play exciting attacking soccer. Win or lose we would be entertained. He stated that the Sounders will give everything they have until the final whistle. He made a similar statement saying we need more players willing to run through brick walls. I was one of many who must have thought "great there goes stylistic football". The acquisition of Chad Barrett looked like that is exactly what was happening. I was wrong. Barrett may never be accused of being stylistic but he does run through brick walls and he also is thinking about scoring goals by whatever is necessary. Oba has said he is here to score goals. That’s the mentality Roth promised and I am still waiting to see for an entire season and have never seen it whenever the playoffs begin.
Instead in the playoffs we go to a very conservative style of win at home by a goal and tie on the road. I want to see them attack at home like they need at least 3 goals or more to advance. No letting off, no saying let’s take this 1 goal lead on the road. Then telling us it is a good result. Good teams know in a home and away series where away goals count and the team that scores the most goals goes through you have to dominate at home. You need to win by no less than 2 goals or you are just increasing your chance of not moving on to the next round. If you go up by 2 goals you go for 3. If you score 3 you go for 4. That is leaving little or no doubt. That is what good teams all over the world do knowing goal differential is crucial. Teams have done that to us but we have never done it.
So if Sigi’s coaching isn’t the problem of why the Sounders haven’t made it into MLS Cup let alone win it after 7 years, what is it?