HOUSTON – The Houston Dynamo know what to expect from the Seattle Sounders in Leg 2 of the Western Conference Championship series on Thursday night (9:30 pm CT; ESPN, ESPN Deportes, WATCH PARTY).
The problem is trying to stop it.
“They use their wide guys to open the field and give freedom to [Nicolas] Lodeiro and [Clint] Dempsey to move freely between the lines,” Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera said. “So we need to be aware of that.”
That task proved difficult in Leg 1, as Seattle jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the 11th minute via a Gustav Svensson header off a corner kick. The task became nearly impossible 16 minutes later after Jalil Anibaba’s takedown of Joevin Jones in the box resulted in a straight red card.
Following his side’s last training in Houston on Tuesday, Cabrera acknowledged what the Dynamo must do to combat Seattle’s style of play.
“We need to be a little bit more aggressive to try to pressure the ball on the side instead of just relaxing because sometimes they just want to move the ball,” Cabrera said.
“They move the ball, they pass the ball. They move the ball, they pass the ball. It doesn’t look like they’re looking to penetrate and suddenly they change speed and someone is making a run, or someone is making a cross and they’re ready. So we’re aware of that and hopefully, we can contain them by being more aggressive.”
Lodeiro, who has yet to score in the playoffs, showcased in Leg 1 how much he benefits from the playing style Cabrera described. Lodeiro got the assist on Svensson’s goal, and it was his threaded pass that put Jones in the box. About the only thing Lodeiro did wrong in Leg 1 was miss the ensuing penalty kick.
Eric Alexander, who played 72 minutes in Leg 1 and had a firsthand look at Lodeiro, said the Uruguayan is excellent at finding pockets of space to operate. For Houston to contain him, they must limit his touches.
Cabrera agreed, saying the key to defending Lodeiro and his Sounders teammates will be making them feel “uncomfortable with the ball.”
While Houston will try to contain Lodeiro and Seattle, they also must overturn a 2-0 deficit. And while the odds may not be in their favor, Cabrera was able to recount a number of instances in soccer when similar situations have played out.
Cabrera brought up recent results like Sevilla against Liverpool in the Champions League earlier this week, and Sevilla vs. Villarreal earlier this month, in which Sevilla had to come back from multiple-goal deficits. He also recalled Barcelona’s dramatic comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in last year’s Champions League.
And don't tell Cabrera about the odds.
“If we go to the statistics we shouldn’t go to Seattle," Cabrera said.
"We should stay here because based on the statistics, they haven’t lost, they’re very strong, but we have to write the history every day. And we have the chance to write a new chapter in our lives and our history on Thursday. We’ll see. We’re gonna try.”