TUCSON, ARIZ. — Sounders FC plays a friendly tonight that was scheduled as something like a dress rehearsal.
Seattle will face Veracruz of the Mexican second division in hopes that the experience will help players understand what awaits early next month in their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series against UANL Tigres of the Mexican first division.
“The rhythm, the pace of the (Mexican) game, is a little bit different,” coach Sigi Schmid said Thursday. “(Playing Veracruz will give) a feel for the rhythm and the pace of the game.
“Tigres is different. Tigres is actually a quick, very attacking-minded team. Veracruz is a team out of the second division, so we don’t expect the same. Still, for us, it will be a good run out.”
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Veracruz is 3-1-3 and in fourth place in the Ascenso MX, the second tier of professional soccer in Mexico. Known as the Red Sharks, they finished 12th in the 2012 Apertura with 14 points (3-6-5).
Tigres, meanwhile, is off to a 5-0-2 start in the Clausura of Liga MX – the top league’s only unbeaten team.
“There’s obviously a difference between Tigres and Veracruz – and there’s a difference in quality between Tigres and some other teams in the Mexican first division,” Schmid said. “What was most important for us was to play a team that plays in the style of a Mexican team.
“It was not going to be feasible or possible to bring up one of the first-division teams. We felt playing Veracruz was a better option than playing a team maybe from another Central American country.”
The Sounders are expected to go with a first-11 lineup against Veracruz. However, forward Eddie Johnson is questionable with an undisclosed “knock” suffered in training, as is defender Adam Johansson (knee).
Also, Schmid said newly acquired Shalrie Joseph is not ready for his Sounders debut.
The game will be played at a Tucson training field with bleachers creating a seating capacity of around 1,200. All tickets already have been distributed. The game will not be available on television.
On Saturday, the Sounders will go with a lineup of reserves when they meet Real Salt Lake in the final of the Desert Diamond Cup. The match will be played at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium and shown live at 5 p.m.on NBC Sports Network.
That will be the final preseason friendly for the Sounders, who will return home Sunday to begin game-week training for their Major League Soccer regular-season opener March 2 against Montreal.
The CCL quarterfinal begins March 6 in Monterrey, Mexico.
“You never feel it’s enough time,” Schmid said. “You wish it could be more games. But we can’t replicate league games. So for a team from the U.S., it’s very difficult in this round of the Champions League because the Mexican teams are 90-minutes fit, and we’re not 90-minutes fit yet.”
Details of a Sounders FC loyalty/rewards program were announced Thursday. Details are available at MatchPass.soundersFC.com. The distaff team, Sounders Women of the W-League, has named Hubert Busby Jr. as coach and general manager, replacing Michelle French, who left to pursue youth coaching and a role with the U.S. U-20 team. Busby, who has more than a decade of professional coaching experience, once played with the Jamaica national team.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org/soccer