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Sounders Soccer is a clean sheet and a goal; that won’t change

TL;DR version: You play to win the game

Heading to Commerce City, Colorado (1 PM, ESPN) the Seattle Sounders have a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals. This is their best ever lead just a match away from the MLS Cup. Any result where they win or draw means that they advance. A loss by just one goal if they score at least one means that they advance.

A visual breakdown of Western Conference Championship Leg 2 scenarios

Do not look for the Sounders to sit back and patiently accept the Colorado Rapids’ onslaught. They did that in leg two against Dallas, and if not for Nicolas Lodeiro could be at home right now.

Head Coach Brian Schmetzer says that experience educated his team.

“The object is, for us, to keep a clean sheet and to score a goal, or two goals, or win the game. That’s always the goal. How that manifested itself for Dallas, we could have tried to come out and actually play, but Oscar had a gameplan, pinned us back a bit. They were hyped up. We’ve learned from that. So we’ll be ready.”

If Colorado tries to mimic that success that FCD had, the Rapids will do so without defensive midfielder Sam Cronin. Cronin is out due to yellow-card accumulation. Pablo Mastroeni has depth to lean on.

“They gain something with Mike Azira or Dillon Powers. Sam’s a good guy, we’ve liked him for a long time, obviously, a big part of their team,” Schmetzer said of Cronin. “I think Pablo’s message is similar to what ours is ‘next guy forward, next guy forward.’”

Both teams want to improve on the leg one performances. Despite winning, Schmetzer was not satisfied, “there were some areas where we need to be cleaner, sharper ... but overall it was a good performance.”

What worked for Seattle, and what indicates that the lineup probably won’t change too much, despite players getting healthy, was the Sounders applying high pressure.

Schmetzer said, “Obviously the ability to pin them back a little bit created some of the opportunities, some of the half chances we had. So overall the team performance was good, but we’re going to try to tweak a few things and be a little sharper.”

Expect to see Lodeiro, Alonso, Roldan, Friberg, Valdez and Morris pressuring the Rapids, creating shorter paths to goal as they win the ball within the Colorado half. An early Seattle goal creates a perfect scenario for a team that is close to its first trip to the MLS Cup.

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