TUKWILA — One of the biggest matches in Seattle Sounders history is just a few days away. But before the team could completely turn its focus to the away leg of their Concacaf Champions League final against Pumas UNAM, they had to first finish dissecting Saturday’s implosion.
The Sounders are coming off a loss to the San Jose Earthquakes in a game they led 2-0 and 3-1, and seemed to have well under control about two-thirds of the way through. It was the first time in the team’s MLS history that they’d lost a game they led by two goals.
Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said the team spent part of its Monday video session going over the loss with the hope that it serves as a reminder not to take any situation for granted.
“Anything in life where you can have a conversation about things that happened are good conversations,” Schmetzer said. “I credit the senior guys on the team, they all get it. They understand what happened. It didn’t just come from me, which is always best for me.
“It’s a resilient group, it’s a smart group. That’s how MLS is. We addressed it. At 2-0 and 3-1, that conversation was good to have. It was relevant not just for this series but for the future as well. How do we solve it the next time?”
Midfielder Albert Rusnák said the answer is relatively simple: just don’t let up. It’s a message he thinks can potentially be useful in CCL.
“We want to be on the front foot even though we’re on the road,” he said. “We want to press at the right time and stick with it.
“We became too complacent once we took the lead and it cost us the game. It’s a dangerous thing to take your foot off the gas when you have the lead and we learned a valuable lesson last game.”
Preparing for Pumas
In case there was any doubt as to how seriously the Sounders are approaching the CCL finals, Schmetzer said the team’s video analyst, Jorge García Valera, looked at the last 12-15 games Pumas had played in order to find useful clips to share with coaches and players. Valera apparently paid particularly close attention to Pumas’ CCL series. Pumas only opened one of their previous two series at home (a 2-1 win over Cruz Azul), but have won all three of their home legs by a collective score of 9-2.
“We studied a lot of Pumas,” Schmetzer said. “In the two-legged series, you can pick up little things. It’s been pretty comprehensive of what we’ve scouted, but we won’t know until we get out there.”
The Sounders are well aware how important first legs of a series can be. They rode big wins in the openers against Club León and New York City FC to victory in the previous two rounds. While the Sounders continue to take the mental approach that they’re traveling with the intention to win the game, they also are keenly aware that the series can’t be won or lost simply on the back of this result and are trying to take a measured approach to this potentially history-making series.
“You don’t want to be too overwhelmed by the game itself,” Rusnák said. “Everyone is aware and as the game gets closer, I think that’s when everyone will have butterflies. It’s excitement.
“It’s not like we have blood in our eyes and are ready to kill. That’s not the mentality. In games like this, you need to keep your cool as well. The mood is good and it’s only going to get better as the game gets closer.”
Neither team comes into this final in particularly good form. Pumas, who are currently sitting in the final Liga MX playoff spot, are coming off two consecutive two-goal losses and could be jumped by one of four teams in the Clausura’s final weekend. Pumas close out at home against first-place Pachuca in between the two CCL legs.
Reminder: no away-goals
Unlike the previous rounds of the CCL, there is no away-goals tiebreaker in the final. Also unlike the previous rounds, the final will go to overtime if the aggregate score is tied at the end of 180 minutes.
U.S. Open Cup quickly sells out
The Sounders’ imminent return to Starfire Stadium for the U.S. Open Cup was apparently pretty popular as seats sold out within a few hours of them being released to the general public. There are still standing-room-only tickets available for the May 11 game against the Earthquakes.