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Seattle and Houston Ready to Lock Defensive Horns

Seattle Sounders FC, a team with an attacking reputation, knows that advancing in the playoffs requires some defensive discipline. Facing a defensive-minded Houston Dynamo team, Seattle is preparing for a scrappy series. "It's going to be tight defensively," said Seattle defender James Riley, who competed in the playoffs with the New England Revolution. "In the playoffs, you try to re-emphasize team defense. You get (fewer) opportunities, but when you do get opportunities you want to stick it in the net." The two teams have each conceded 29 goals this season, tied for the best mark in the league.

The Sounders, who host the first leg Thursday (10 pm ET, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes) posted an impressive 2-0-1 record against the Dynamo this season, but Seattle coach Sigi Schmid emphasizes that Seattle will play a different Dynamo team on Thursday than the one it faced earlier in the season. Houston has added the burly Mexican forward Luis Angel Landin. "Technically he is a very, very good player. He's got good size," Schmid said of Landin. "He presents a different element than what we faced when we played against [Kei] Kamara and he is much different than [Dominic] Oduro." Houston has also restored a backline that was decimated by injuries when the two teams played in July.

The two teams are braced for a physical contest. Memories linger of July's U.S. Open Cup melee that saw Seattle's Nate Jaqua finish the game in bloody head wrap. "We know it's going to be a physical game," Riley said. "We aren't going to back down from physical challenges. We aren't going to go in dirty -- we are just going to go in hard like they are." Both coaches, experienced in driving their teams deep into playoffs, will approach the two-leg series as two 90-minute halves. "We're going to play and try to win this over 180 minutes. Unless the score is a big blowout either way, it's going to finish in Houston," said Houston coach Dominic Kinnear. "You can't panic. You have to remain disciplined and remember that even though it's 180 minutes, every minute has some meaning."

 

Read the whole story at MLSnet.com »

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