Thursday, November 15, 2012
TUKWILA — Need three goals? Then go all out, right?
At first glance, the strategy for Sounders FC’s comeback from a 3-0 playoff series deficit to the Los Angeles Galaxy seems straightforward: attack.
Seattle hosts the second leg of the Western Conference finals Sunday at CenturyLink Field, and what better way to get a big win than to field an offensively-inclined lineup and throw everyone forward?
Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Why? The Galaxy might have the best counterattacking team in MLS, according to the Sounders. That was evidenced by a pair of lightning-quick goals in the second half of Sunday’s first leg, which turned a one-goal advantage into a mountainous margin.
If Seattle presses forward recklessly, the likes of Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane will be waiting to strike against what would be a short-handed defense.
“It’s a bit of a cat-and-mouse game,” said midfielder Brad Evans. “We’ve got to go for it, but at the same time, we can’t risk taking another one, because then it becomes a landslide at that point. You wait. You be as patient as you can. ... Their ability to counter is probably second to none in the league.”
L.A. counterattacking was particularly what coach Sigi Schmid wanted to avoid in the first leg, even after going down 1-0 just before halftime. During the break, he told his team to keep playing the same game, don’t get stretched thin.
Two goals later, the Sounders will have to assume some risk Sunday.
“They’re a team that likes to sit back and counter anyway,” Schmid said of the Galaxy. “That’s their natural style of play. ... So us having to force the issue plays into their hands a little bit, allows them to use that strength.”
So how do you defend against the counterattack?
Maintaining pressure. Limiting turnovers. Quick recovery of the ball when it’s lost. Awareness.
“We’ve got to play smart, and we’ve got to work hard,” said defender Adam Johansson, who witnessed one of the great comebacks in the soccer world this year.
While serving with the Swedish national team, Johansson was on the bench as Sweden erased a four-goal deficit in less than 30 minutes against Germany in a FIFA World Cup qualifier.
The take-away from that comeback to the potential for another: “I would say, ‘Never give up. It’s never over.’ We scored the last goal in like the last kick,” Johansson said.
Defensive worries might be just as great as having to score three goals against the defending MLS Cup champions.
“I know we’ll get chances,” said forward Eddie Johnson, “but we’ve just got to stop them from scoring goals.
“If we can keep Keane quiet and Donovan quiet ... we’ve got a really good chance of making this a reality as far as advancing to the finals.”