The Houston Dynamo are down on the scoreboard against Seattle Sounders FC in the MLS Western Conference Championship – but the team feels anything but out as they look to undo their deficit in the aggregate score when they play the second leg on Thursday in Seattle (9:30 p.m. CT on ESPN | WATCH PARTY).
The Dynamo fell 2-0 in the first leg on Tuesday at BBVA Compass Stadium. In order to advance to the MLS Cup Final, the team must win or draw on aggregate by scoring at least three goals. A 2-0 win would force the series into extra time and potentially penalty kicks.
“All the players that are here are ready to play,” said midfielder Tomás Martínez. “This is a very competitive group and anyone who gets to play will be up to the task. I think if we score up there at the beginning of the game we will have many opportunities and, well, we will do everything possible to win.”
Martínez debuted with the team in August but has quickly become an important piece in Wilmer Cabrera’s plans, playing 353 minutes in these playoffs – the fifth-most within the team. He will likely be looked upon to help the team generate the goals needed to keep the season alive.
He and the rest of the team will look to feed the likes of forwards Erick Torres, Mauro Manotas and Romell Quioto – responsible for 31 of the team’s 57 goals during the regular season – as Alberth Elis is ineligible for this match due to yellow card accumulation. The team will also be without defender Jalil Anibaba, red carded in the first leg, but the team is confident the defense will be able to hold off Seattle’s potent attacking options.
“I told every striker: 'you have to score goals,'” said defender Leonardo. “We’re going to fight in the back, so they can score any goal. I told them ‘score goals, do your job in there, we’re gonna do our job in the back.' It’s difficult but it’s simple like that.”
A three-time MLS Cup champion with the LA Galaxy, Leonardo was one of several newcomers brought in by Wilmer Cabrera and vice president/general manager Matt Jordan for their championship-winning experience. Juan David Cabezas also won two league titles in the Colombian first division, and one of those title runs shares a similarity with this series.
“I have had the chance to win a championship on the road with a difficult score so I still have a lot of faith,” said Cabezas. “I trust the team, I trust in the work that we have been doing and I trust that every match is different. They will also have to do a great job because we have desire and we will do everything humanly possible.”