The top two clubs in CONCACAF Champions League Group D met Tuesday before a crowd of 15,866 at CenturyLink Field.
Monterrey’s 2-1 win will send the defending champions from Mexico through to the quarterfinals as the top club in the group. Seattle still advances as the lower seed, but its path beyond that probably got tougher with this result.
“It matters in terms of the pairings,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “You look at most of the group winners, they’re going to be Mexican teams. So the chances are you’re going to mix with a Mexican team, and that makes the task a little bit harder. Who knows how the draw turns out? So it was something that we wanted to do; but we also wanted to be smart and not put ourselves in jeopardy in the next round – and also in MLS Cup.”
Because winning was a priority but not the only priority, Schmid started a mix of veteran regulars and young reserves.
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Among the later was a goalkeeper making his first appearance: Bryan Meredith, a second-round pick from Monmouth of New Jersey who spent his summer playing for the Kitsap Pumas of the Premier Development League.
The rookie received a rough introduction when Monterrey broke through in the third minute. Dario Carreno took a pass alone behind the trapping Sounders defense and fired past Meredith, who came off his line but couldn’t get close enough to take away much of Carreno’s angle.
“Giving up a goal is certainly not the way I wanted to start the game or my MLS career,” Meredith said. “But after that, I kind of settled down a little bit. It got the nerves out of me, really. I felt pretty confident the whole rest of the game.”
Meredith leapt from fourth on the depth chart to the starting job due to injuries to reserve keepers Terry Boss (concussion) and Josh Ford (knee) combined with Schmid’s decision to give starter Kasey Keller a break.
“I thought Meredith played well,” Schmid said. “For a guy in his first game – and it was a fairly big game – I thought he was composed. I didn’t think he could do much with either goal. I thought he was fine. And you know Keller had a tough emotional game on Saturday and we felt it was best not to come with him today.”
In Keller’s absence, Schmid awarded the captain’s armband to forward Fredy Montero. And that’s who pulled Seattle even on a free kick from about 26 yards late in the first half.
It was Montero’s 18th goal of the season in all competitions, and his 11th goal in his past 11 appearances.
“We just felt Fredy was the guy who deserves (to be captain),” Schmid said. “He’s been playing well. He’s been leading the team with his effort and his performance, and we felt it was the appropriate thing to do.”
However, the visitors scored the game-winner in the 61st minute with Cesar Delgado scoring after the Sounders gave away possession.
When Seattle failed to come from behind a second time, it left Monterrey at the top of the group at 4-2, with the Sounders right behind at 3-2-1.
“I think we gave up two soft goals,” Schmid said. “I think they’re a good team. They move the ball around. I think they were content early in the second half to maybe even play to a draw. The second goal was a giveaway where we have the assist on the goal. You can’t give away soft goals because you’re not always going to be able to resurrect yourself and score goals at the end of the game and win it.”
Seattle will conclude its MLS regular season Saturday at Chivas USA.
“It’s good to focus only on MLS,” said forward Sammy Ochoa, who also got his first start. “The guys that are hurt come back, and we work on the playoffs.”