This could be the week that Seattle Sounders FC assures itself of moving on to both the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals and the Major League Soccer playoffs.
The latter will occur Saturday if Seattle wins or ties at Vancouver – and it could happen even with a loss, depending on the results of other games.
Meanwhile, the Sounders can assure their participation in the Champions League knockout round as early as tonight, depending on the results of two games: Comunicaciones must win or draw at Monterrey, and the Sounders must defeat Herediano – a team they defeated last week – at CenturyLink Field.
“Obviously, it’s still an important game, just because of the way results have gone in our group,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “We set as our objective going into this tournament that we want to … win our home games. We’ve won a couple of road games – those are bonus points, as far as I’m concerned. So we want to win this one because we’re at home.”
Herediano, based in Costa Rica, is the only winless club in Group D.
If the Sounders make it a sweep tonight, they will have a 4-0 record in the six-game group stage. However, those 12 points still won’t assure them of going through if Monterrey picks up three points tonight on its home pitch.
“You could still have a situation where three teams end up with 12, or you could have a situation where four teams end up with nine,” Schmid said. “Even though it seems like a great start, and mathematically you don’t expect that to happen, I’ve seen stranger things happen. We will wait to make sure the appropriate result happens on the other end before we talk about clinching.”
The Sounders can eliminate the four-team-tie scenario by earning points tonight.
But despite the potential importance of the game, Schmid said he might use players in unusual combinations while keeping in mind the MLS road game looming this weekend.
“Sometimes there’s a challenge in it: Can you put out a group that can work for each other, that can complement each other, even though you don’t have weeks of training working together as a group to fully understand how to play with each other,” Schmid said. “So, going into it as a coach you know: ‘OK, these are things I’m worried about in this game, these are things I think that will come off.’ Then you just wait and see, but at the end it’s just a great opportunity for the players.”
Schmid said rookie goalkeeper Josh Ford could get his first start tonight. And the coming stretch of three games in eight days could provide additional playing opportunities for players such as forward Sammy Ochoa, whom Schmid said is almost fit enough to come on for 20 to 30 minutes, and midfielder Amadou Sanyang, who made his CenturyLink debut last weekend against D.C. United in an MLS match.
“I kind of have the feeling it could give me a little more playing time,” Sanyang said after practice this week. “… I think they are confident in me and I feel like anytime I came on I can do whatever it is the coaches wanted me to do.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter: @donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer
CS HEREDIANO (COSTA RICA) at SOUNDERS FC (MLS)
7 p.m., CenturyLink Field; TV: Fox Soccer. Radio: 97.3-FM.
HEAD TO HEAD: The Sounders won, 2-1, at Herediano on Wednesday. Fredy Montero had both goals for Seattle. Jose Cancela converted a penalty kick for Herediano.
NOTES: Seattle is atop CONCACAF Champions League Group D at 3-0 – the only perfect record remaining in the 16-team competition. Herediano is at the bottom with an 0-3 record and has been outscored, 9-1. The other clubs in the group are Comunicaciones of Guatemala (2-1) and Monterrey (1-2). They meet tonight in Mexico. Each group team plays the other three home and away, and the top two in the group advance to the quarterfinals. Seattle can assure itself of advancing with a win combined with a Monterrey draw or loss. … Herediano was founded in 1921 when three clubs from around Heredia, Costa Rica, merged. The club has 21 Costa Rican league titles, behind Saprissa (29) and Alajuelense (26). Seattle defender Leo Gonzalez made 154 appearances with Herediano from 2000-2009. … Sounders assists leader Mauro Rosales suffered a small tear of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee, the club announced. Rosales suffered the injury late in Seattle’s 3-0 win over D.C. United on Saturday, and he underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test Monday. He is expected to be out two to four weeks.
QUOTABLE: “The team that Herediano brings (is a) little bit uncertain … as to how they are approaching it. Technically they are not eliminated yet. … For us, it’s a home game, and it’s one that we want to win and need to win.” – Sounders coach Sigi Schmid.
NEXT: Seattle returns to MLS play at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Vancouver. The Sounders’ next Champions League match is Sept. 27 at Comunicaciones.
Don Ruiz, staff writer