Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sounders and Santos Laguna square off in the second leg with a spot in the semifinal on the line

By Money Mike

Nursing a 2-1 lead after the first leg of the Champions League Quarterfinal, the Seattle Sounders will look to hold on and avoid defeat on the road against Santos Laguna in the second leg. The Seattle faces perhaps the most difficult road game in franchise history down at the Estadio Corona in Torreon where Santos have been tough all season long. As I said about a week ago, despite the 2-1 win in the first leg at CenturyLink Field the away goal by former USL Sounder Herculez Gomez could become a factor as to who comes out on top in the series and advance to the CONCACAF Champions League Semifinal.

In this tournament, Santos Laguna are 4-0 at home and have outscored their opponents 14-3 while the Sounders went 2-0-1 on the road in group play. Their last competitive match in Mexico, August 23rd against Monterrey in which Seattle came away 1-0 winners. Playing in a crucial road match is nothing new for the Sounders considering they've done that a number of times in 2011 and came away victorious.

A few reasons why this match could be in Santos Laguna's favor. Of course because they have the home field advantage, that's one reason. Another big reason is because in games like this, the altitude becomes a big factor for the visiting teams. Right now, the Estadio Corona sits at an altitude of 3,280 ft. I bring that up because playing soccer under warm weather, and I mean really warm weather under a high altitude could be a huge problem in Mexico, especially for American clubs. I mean, this nothing like MLS matches being played during the summer. I know for a fact that at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, oxygen tanks are used in locker rooms because the stadium sits at an altitude of over 7,200 ft. I don't know if that's done at the Estadio Corona as well, but the fact is soccer players/footballers need to get used to the lower oxygen and the United States doesn't have a high altitude. I think this is the reason why the top leagues in the world like the English Premier League, the Italian Serie A, the German Bundesliga, the Spanish La Liga, etc. are mostly played during the winter. The Sounders have played in the heat before, but again Mexico has a high altitude and the U.S. doesn't.

What to watch out for in this game:

- I know the Sounders are up in the series, but still, play to win. You can't play a defensive minded game for 90 minutes, it's never going to work, especially against a team like Santos Laguna. If there's 10 minutes to go and Seattle still has the edge on aggregate, then maybe they can switch to a defensive formation, but this team has to play like it's another must win game.

- In the first leg, both Jeff Parke and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado did very well shutting down Oribe Peralta in the first leg last wednesday night, but they will have to do that again in this match and I can tell you, Peralta is ticked off and is ready to come at them. If Parke and Hurtado and shut him down again and the back line can tighten up defensively and not give them any easy chances, then there's a very good chance Seattle can pull it out and get the win.

What result the Sounders need to advance:

Of course a win or a draw and the Sounders will definetely advance. Because the first match ended 2-1 in favor of the home team, which would be the Sounders, the only chance of the second match going to overtime is if Santos Laguna win their home match 2-1. This is like the playoffs, except for one little thing and that is if the series finished level then the only tiebreaker would be the team that scored the most away goals in the series. This rule doesn't apply in the MLS Cup playoffs, so I'm pretty sure this is new to alot of folks.

Here's the link that explains how Seattle can advance or be eliminated:


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