TUKWILA, Wash. — Returning to Seattle for the second leg of the Conference Finals on Thursday, the Seattle Sounders know there is still another 90 minutes of work to be done. No doubt history is on their side, but that only makes the lead seem that much more dangerous, at least according to coach Brian Schmetzer. “You know, there’s an old saying: 2-0 is the most dangerous lead in soccer,” he said after practice Friday. Only two teams in MLS playoff history have overcome a 2-0 Leg 1 deficit, and neither of the positive Leg 2 results came on the road.
The last time a team moved on through a playoff series after trailing by two goals after the first leg was 2004, when the Kansas City Wizards took on the San Jose Earthquakes in the Western Conference Semifinals. After losing 2-0 on the road, Kansas City came back home and won in dramatic fashion, sealing a 3-0 victory in stoppage time to take the series 3-2 on aggregate. Just a year earlier, that same San Jose was on the other side of the only other case of a club overcoming a 2-0 Leg 2 goal differential.
In 2003, rivals San Jose and the LA Galaxy were matched up in the Western Conference Semifinals. The Galaxy took Leg 1 at home 2-0. Leg 2 started off as a complete nightmare for the Quakes as they gave up two goals in the opening 15 minutes of the match.
The Quakes would soon get back two goals of their own to make it 2-2 at the half. Still down 2 goals on aggregate, the Quakes struck early in the second half and then again in the 90’ to take a 4-2 lead on the day and force the match into extra time. Six minutes later, Rodrigo Faria scored the Golden Goal that sealed a 5-4 series victory over the Galaxy and thrust the Quakes into the 2003 Western Conference Finals.
As for how Seattle plans to approach Leg 2 and their “dangerous” 2-0 lead, the narrative out of the Sounders camp is that they want to take the match to the Dynamo, that they want to score, that they want to win.
George Bernard Shaw once said, “There is always danger for those who are afraid.” Clearly, the Sounders are not afraid.
“We always are going to come out to try to score,” Schmetzer said, “because we understand that 2-0 is a dangerous score, but 3-0 is a good score for us. We’re gonna come out and we’re gonna play our style. We’ll attempt to do the same thing here at home.”
Schmetzer is hoping Will Bruin can help the Sounders get on the board with another goal against his former team in Leg 2.
“I’d love for Will to score another goal. That would make our job a little bit easier.”
Bruin, who has two MLS Finals appearances, both in his time with Houston, is eager to defeat his old team and have the chance to earn his first Finals victory.
“For me, I keep saying, ‘Third time’s a charm,’ because I was 0-2 the first two years, both against LA. Getting back there a third time would be great and when I get there I want to make sure I win it.”