As they go in search of history in the second leg of their Concacaf Champions League final on Wednesday, the Seattle Sounders will be cheered on by a competition record crowd.
Over 67,000 fans are expected inside Lumen Field as the Sounders take on Pumas UNAM with the tie perfectly balanced after a 2-2 draw in Mexico City last week. The previous record of 66,208 was held by Club America when they hosted Herediano in the 2015 semi-final second leg.
The Sounders had to use all their resolve to withstand the Pumas barrage last week and only find themselves in such a strong position thanks to a duo of penalties from Nico Lodeiro, the second coming in the 99th minute to complete a two-goal comeback.
But in front of a vibrant, rave green crowd, the Sounders will go on the front foot as they look to become the first-ever MLS winners of CCL since the competition’s rebrand in 2008, and the first to win the tournament in any form since the LA Galaxy in 2000.
“I would expect us to come out on the front foot, especially having the fans on our side, they’re going to keep pushing us forward,” Seattle forward Albert Rusnak told reporters (via MLSsoccer.com). “I would imagine a more attacking and more dominant game from us. Obviously, we’re fully aware of the fact that they’re not going to come here and sit on in front of the edge of their box and kick long balls and all that. They will fancy themselves as well, which is something that we’re fully aware of.
“But maybe the first few minutes of the game may be a little hectic, but at some point, the game is going to slow down and the game is going to settle and there will be moments of possession for us to try to unlock that defense they played against us in the first game.”
Most teams would be sweating a little with the pressure the Sounders are under, not just to win the trophy for themselves but also to be pioneers for Major League Soccer.
But Seattle are different. Since their first game in 2009, the Sounders have won two MLS Cups, a Supporters’ Shield, and four US Open Cups. They’ve reached MLS Cup in four of the last six seasons.
All that experience and know-how, and all that quality in the likes of Lodeiro, Raul Ruidiaz, Jordan Morris, and Joao Paulo could tip the scales on Wednesday night.
“We addressed in the locker room amongst the players, the players had conversations about it amongst themselves because there is some underlying pressure there being the home team in front of the home crowd,” head coach Brian Schmetzer said.
He continued: “If you remember the 2019 final, there were many people who said that Toronto took it to us that first half. My viewpoint’s a little different but I’m obviously biased. But when the first goal came, it was like everybody could relax and we played and jumped to a 3-0 lead. So, yes, that experience is going to help us. Yes, we did address it in the build-up and the preparation for this game.”
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