After securing a 2-1 advantage during the home leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against Santos Laguna, the Seattle Sounders find themselves just 90 minutes away from reaching new heights. A win or draw would put the Rave Green through to the semifinal round of the competition where a date with one of two MLS clubs-LA Galaxay or Toronto FC-awaits. Winning in the next round would be far from a given, but beating Santos Laguna is on paper at least the far more imposing task. Seattle did well to head to Torreón with the lead, but that won't count for much unless they manage to take care of business tonight at the Estadio Corona.
At least at the outset, the Sounders will be at a disadvantage thanks to the away goals rule. A 1-0 win for the home side would be enough to push them through to the semifinals, making the need to get a goal all the more pressing. Fortunately for Seattle, as good as Santos Laguna is, they're a team whose defense can be exploited. Los Guerreros are far from lacking in quality across the back, but given their desire to push forward and attack they see goals allowed as a cost of doing business. Their last clean sheet came on January 21st, and though they sit at the top of the Mexican Primera table they're right smack in the middle in terms of their goals allowed record.
With a better luck or in a few cases better finishing, the Sounders advantage could be greater heading into tonight's contest. This team has shown that they're capable of maintaining pressure, creating chances and putting goals on the board against Santos Laguna; failing to score appears to be far less of a concern than keeping the opposition's attack in check.The Sounders defended quite well at home, but even still it's easy to point to several Santos Laguna chances that could have given tonight's game a very different feel. Seattle is not a team that's built to bunker-and-counter; Sigi Schmid has been quite clear that, to a very large extent, his side will be playing exactly the same style tonight that they did a week ago. With that in mind, the quality of the defense will be the biggest key to the Sounders chances. They don't have to completely shackle Santos Laguna, but they've got to keep them well within range.
If last week's game was indeed the most important in this club's history (it was) then its reign will have been short lived. Santos Laguna will still be rightly considered the favorites to move on to the next round, but the Sounders have put themselves into as good a position as could have been expected. Perhaps more importantly, very little of this will be new to them; they've got a pretty decent history in cup competitions after all, and they've won in Mexico before. The opportunity to call themselves the best team in the region and book their tickets to the Club World Cup is tantalizingly close, but the task is still a monumental one. It's been five years since an MLS team defeated a Mexican opponent in a knockout competition. In the current, more rigorous and more legitimately taken Champions League format, it hasn't happened once. That's got to change at some point. Why not tonight?