For those not following closely, the rules of a CONCACAF Champions League aggregate-score series can get confusing.
But there is one simple formula for Sounders FC tonight in its deciding quarterfinal match: They advance to the semifinals if they shut out Santos Laguna.
“That’s obviously what we do every game: We want our team to not allow any goals, and give our team a chance to go out there and win the game for us,” defender Jeff Parke said. “If we can do our job in the back, it’s much easier for them up front. It’s a huge game. If we can get a zero, that’s great.”
The Sounders take a 2-1 lead into this match, following their win last week in Seattle.
However, not all CCL goals are created equal. Road goals are the first tiebreaker, which means that a 1-0 win by the home team tonight would send Santos through. On the other hand, a 3-2 Santos win would send Seattle through, on the basis of more road goals.
That latter kind of score might be more likely because Santos has shown itself to be an explosive offensive team, especially at home.
“I don’t know if they were just a little lackadaisical (in Seattle), but they didn’t show everything they’re capable of showing,” Parke said. “From everything that we know and have watched about them and hear stories and see stats and stuff like that, they’re good players.”
Some of those stats: Santos has scored 23 goals in nine CCL games, and 15 goals in four home games. They have been shut out once – on the road. At home, their lowest total is two goals, and they topped out at six. They were the highest-scoring club in the group stage, with 16 goals in six games.
With one goal to make up tonight, Santos is expected to unleash its offensive weapons. However, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid doesn’t sound like a man playing for a scoreless result.
“We have the 2-1 lead; we can expect Santos to press the game a little bit,” he said. “... At home, maybe you’re going to take an additional risk when you’re attacking. When you’re on the road, sometimes you attack and when that attack breaks down, let’s make sure we get back instead of hoping we can steal a ball and attack again. You just have to be a little more honest. When opportunities are there to attack, we’re going to take them.”
The Sounders’ could have some advantage in freshness: They haven’t played since the quarterfinal opener one week ago, while Santos won a league game Saturday.
However, Santos is 10 games into its Mexican Primera Division season, and might be closer to midseason form. Seattle doesn’t open its Major League Soccer season until Saturday and is still coordinating a reworked defensive end that includes new starting right back Adam Johansson and new starting goalkeeper Michael Gspurning.
“It’s still a work in progress,” Parke said. “... It’s going in the right direction. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t setbacks; there aren’t times when guys aren’t on the same page or get discouraged with each other. But we’re doing the right things now. We’re going together as a good unit. We’re pretty solid.”
The Sounders announced the signings of midfielders Andy Rose and Alex Caskey on Tuesday. Rose was taken out of UCLA with an MLS Supplemental Draft pick acquired from Salt Lake. Caskey was Seattle’s third-round pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft and played last season for USL Charleston.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer