We just got a few minutes with coach Sigi Schmid, who is with the Sounders in Dallas, where they are taking a stop on their way to Monterrey, Mexico, for the CONCACAF Champions League series-opener Wedneday at Monterrey.
I've already tweeted a few highlights, and will try to fill in with details and quotes here, once I transcribe the conversation. For now:
Schmid said David Estrada and Djimi Traore are traveling with the team, but Shalrie Joseph stayed home.
He acknowedged that the Mexican first division is the best pro league in the CONCACAF region, but that MLS is second and closing the gap.
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He acknowledged his team has had trouble in aggregate-score series. But had added it remains an advantage to play the resolution game at home -- as the Sounders will do March 12 -- and that the club's goal is to win, draw or lose by no more than a goal in the first leg.
Schmid started with just an overview of the Sounders' time from their MLS-opening loss to Montreal on Saturday through this CCL series.
"Obviously we weren’t happy with the (Montreal) result, so that doesn’t change," he said. "We know we’re capable of playing better than we did in that particular game. We had some chances early. Watching it again on film, they had some good chances as well, even though I think we controlled most of the game. We just have to be a little bit sharper and take care of things. …
"Right now we’re here in Dallas, as we started last year with trips in CONCACAF Champions League is to break the trips into two legs because when we’re not chartering – just taking regular flights, layovers at the airport, etc. etc. – it just makes for an extremely long travel day to do it all on one day. So we’re training, we’ve got this game on Wednesday, we’ll come back, we’ll train, we’ll give them a day off as well, and then we’ll have a game against next Tuesday. So, our time’s pretty full."
More from Schmid...
On team's mentality: I’m not really questioning the mentality of the group. When you look at San Jose lost on their opening game, as well, and they were missing some people. It was more a situation of where maybe – not overconfident, but pretty confident in what they could achieve. Things had gone well in preseason, and sometimes when you get that, if you as a coach scream at them they’re looking at you and saying, ‘Why are you screaming at us? We won all of our preseason games, won that tournament.’ So you’re saying you don’t want to be complacent, but it’s just human nature that you maybe just relax or take your foot off the pedal a little bit. That’s just human nature. But they guys’ reaction is good. I think we’ll be ready to play on Wednesday. They know they want to have success in this tournament, and have success in our next league game against Portland.
On Tigres leading scorer Emanuel Villa out with injury: They’re a team that with their coach, Tuca Ferretti, he’s played basically the same lineup every game. He puts the same guys out there. So Villa, obviously having scored eight goals in eight games for them, is an important part of their team. But the other 10 guys are the same guys that have been starting every game. In the first part of the Champions League he didn’t play his normal league group in those games. That’s why they didn’t do as well and they sort of scrambled to win their group. But right now, I think he’s going to come with his top group, and those are the guys who have been playing week in and week out for him. Missing Villa hurts them, but there are so many pieces that understand each other that it’s probably not as difficult for them to replace that one piece.
On what can be learned from Tigres' league form: For the second year in a row we’re playing the best team in Mexico at the moment. We’ve got to figure out a way to not finish as high as we did in our group play and get a better draw, because it seems like if we would have finished a little lower we might have gotten a better draw. But it is what it is. They’re a team that believes in themselves right now. One of the things that may helps us is because they’ve played so many games as a group that maybe there’s a little bit of fatigue starting to set in. Maybe the league is so important to them that that’s their main focus – I don’t know. But also maybe they’ve won enough points already that they’re saying, ‘Hey, we can relax in league a little bit, we’re going to get into the playoffs and have a favorable seeding, so we can maybe concentrate now on the next phase.’ I don’t really know what the inner workings are of their team, what the importance is in regard to their own goals as a group. But certainly their league form is something that’s going to help them in this competition because they’re very confident right now.
On experience of fourth straight season vising Mexico: Obviously we went to Monterrey and won 1-0 in the group stage, and that was important for us, that result. I think we’ve shown that we can play those teams tough. We beat Santos at home last year. But the biggest thing for us is that we haven’t always done well in two-game series, and especially when we’re playing the first game away from home – our MLS experience has taught us that. And we’ve got to go out Wednesday night with the maturity to play a good game defensively and not get caught up in the enthusiasm of the game no matter what turn it takes and lose by more than we should, if we end up losing. We obviously want to win the game. If we don’t win it, we want to tie it. And if we can’t tie it, we only want to lose 1-0. All those things are important to us, and the maturity of the team is stronger over the years for having gone through these types of games and having played games in Mexico. That is something that we want to achive.
On his plan at forward for this week: That’s something we’re still thinking about. We haven’t made a final decision there.
On availability of some players who didn't play against Montreal: Traore is with us, so we’ll make a decision on that over the next 24 or 48 hours. He’s with us, and he’s been training. Estrada is also with us. He did more work today, so we’ll see how he responds to that as we move forward. Shalrie we left at home, so he’s still back in Seattle.
Tigres’ familiar U.S. names Jonathan Bornstein and Jose Torres: Torres starts for them every game and usually gets subbed out in the second half, about the 70th minute mark or so, but he starts every game. He’s sort of their playmaker. They usually play a 4-2-3-1, and he’s sort of the playmaker of their two holding guys. (Carlos) Salcido is more of their defensive guy in there. He’s a good passer of the ball, and he’s played very well for them. I think they’re very happy with him. Jonathan Bornstein obviously hasn’t seen any playing time in league at this stage for them. Is he somebody who’s going to play in the game against us? Don’t know. They’re best attacking outside back is their left back, so he’s an important part of their team and their team attacking, getting goals; so I don’t know if they’re going to make a change in that particular position.
On Montreal playing the same formation as Tigres: "When you put numbers on the systems, not every 4-2-3-1 is the same. Everything is different. When you look at, for example, Tigres, they attack with their left back and their right back stays back a little bit more. Their left winger is a very quick, dribble, attack-minded winger who comes inside. The guy on the right is more of an up and down, stay at home type of winger, so the balance is different. It's just a different way that they play. Montreal was different in terms of they tried to do a lot more things through the middle with Felipe and [Davy] Arnaud. Just formation-wise and matching up, I think Montreal played a good game against us and made things difficult for us, but I don't think it was their formation that stymied us or anything like that. I think our execution needed to be better at key moments and it's the same thing going into Tigres. It's not the formation that is going to be the problem. We have to be aware of the formation, we have to tactically have the right approach, but at the end of the day you have to execute and you have to work." On how much he will use the first-leg playoff losses to Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy to prepare for this game: "It will definitely be strongly impressed upon them in the next few days...It's like if somebody throws you in a pool and you can't swim. You either figure out that you want to swim or you never go in the pool again. For us, we've had some bad results in the first leg of two-legged series, so we have to turn that around or just not make the playoffs anymore and get into those series. I think the team would rather take the first approach of learning how to deal with this. It's important for us to bring resolution to how we approach game one and to bring a more mature approach as the game is going on. The difficulty in soccer is you can't call timeout. When you look at all the American sports, in football they're over there huddling with the coach after each play if they can, so you can really influence that and you get their focus back and you can climb on them. In basketball, you can call timeout and get on their case and you can get into them. In baseball, same thing, you've got guys coming in the dugout you're talking to every four-five minutes. In soccer, once they get out there and start playing 45 minutes and you have 50,000 people in the stadium, I can't hold a discussion with somebody if I see he's starting to lose his composure. We either have to have that composure or we really have to think about finding other people who will have that composure at key moments." On having the second leg at home: "Last year, we played the second game at Santos Laguna in Torreon, so that was a difficult place to go. It's always better, I think, when you play the second leg at home. Also, the past playoff series in MLS have shown that we have been able to really get up for that game two and really rally and make things very interesting. The thing for us is not to dig a hole in game one because we're confident in game two that we can get the result we need."