Teams in MLS do not score three goals in the opening match of a two-leg aggregate goal series. Since doing away with best-of-3 series after the 2002 season, there have been 62 aggregate-goal series played and a team has a team won the opening leg by three goals just three times. You remember them all, because they’ve all involved the Seattle Sounders.
This year they were on the better side of the 3-0. Back in 2012’s Western Conference Finals they were on the wrong side as they fell behind the LA Galaxy, and would fail to advance. Seattle also dug a hole against Real Salt Lake in the 2011 Western Conference Semifinals. Again, they failed to advance. The only other team to trail by three goals in a first leg was the Portland Timbers. Portland scored late in that game and it ended 4-2.
Being up 3-0 is a huge deal. It dramatically shifts the math in the lower seed’s favor.
None of Seattle’s losses in 2016 would be poor enough to have them lose in regulation. Only the 3-0 loss to Sporting KC would even force extra time. That means that even at their worst the Sounders would have two 15-minute halves to attempt to advance.
There is no need to change tactics. They have exactly the tactics to advance. Sounders soccer is good enough. Schmetzer soccer is good enough.
The last Seattle result that would have them losing this series outright was May 11th, 2014. That 5-0 loss to New England was devastating, and rare. There are only four other losses in regular season history that wouldn’t earn at least extra time, if not advancement. Even including the CONCACAF Champions League only the 6-1 loss to Santos Laguna in the 2012 knockouts is poor enough to lead the Sounders to not advancing.
Six times over eight years and nearly 300 games of Sounders FC (MLS era) soccer show there is no need to bunker. Bunkering would be absurd. Seattle must play the style of game that earned this opportunity.
Going into leg two head coach Brian Schmetzer can consider the health of his players, their yellow card situation (Alonso is one card away from an accumulation suspension) and not worry about shifting tactics. His system (hard work, pushing for goals early and late, intermittent high pressure) is working. It’s good enough to advance.
One of Sigi Schmid’s greatest flaws was shifting team tactics towards the conservative in the playoffs. There is no need to repeat that error. It’s time to be Brian Schmetzer’s Sounders, and advance.