Sounders FC has its share of concerns as it turns attention to CONCACAF Champions League play this week — but overconfidence shouldn’t be among them.
Coach Sigi Schmid implied that a 4-0 run through the preseason Desert Diamond Cup in Arizona might have lulled his team into a sense of security that contributed to its 1-0 home loss to Montreal on Saturday in its Major League Soccer opener.
But Schmid figures the hard lesson learned has the players’ attention as they prepare to visit Mexican first-division leader Tigres UANL on Wednesday.
“Anytime you get slapped in the face like this in a game, hopefully you rise from it and you become a little more determined and motivated — a little more focused,” Schmid said after the Montreal defeat. “That’s something we certainly have to be in the Champions League; and that’s something we certainly have to be in our next league game. It’s important how we finish, and it’s not so important how we start.”
However, that is truer in a 34-game MLS season than it is in a two-game aggregate-score CCL quarterfinal. Anything that Seattle gives up to Tigres in Mexico this week will need to be matched and exceeded on March 12 when the knockout-round series resolves at CenturyLink Field.
“It’s a difficult opponent; it’s a difficult place to play in Monterrey,” Schmid said Saturday. “But we’re a proud team. There’s a lot of proud guys (in the locker room) that are disappointed today, and we’ll come back.”
Seattle will go with a different lineup in Mexico for a variety of reasons. Osvaldo Alonso and Marc Burch, who were suspended for the MLS opener, are available. Players such as Adam Johansson, David Estrada, Djimi Traore and Shalrie Joseph, who were held out for fitness reasons, could be cleared. Schmid will have to determine which of his players played long minutes against Montreal and whether they are in shape to do it again four days later in Mexico.
“We’re going to take them one game at a time,” Schmid said last week. “… I would say not to expect the same lineup down in Mexico as we (played) here in the opener. … There are a couple of guys that we can get some fresh legs on when we go down to Mexico.”
One of Schmid’s most interesting personnel decisions could involve 19-year-old right back DeAndre Yedlin, a Seattle native. Schmid had indicated at the end of preseason training that Monterrey, Mexico, might not be the most productive place to introduce the rookie to international competition.
However, Yedlin’s pro debut against the Impact may have been the brightest spot of the Sounders’ opener. And in the friendly home environment, it didn’t seem that the rookie’s nerves were much of a problem.
“I think it was a combination of (nerves and excitement) — a good balance,” Yedlin said. “I try to get that balance.”
Seattle advanced to the CCL quarterfinals with a 4-0 record through the group stage last summer and fall, earning a No. 3 seeding for the knockout stage. Tigres went 2-0-2 and drew a No. 6 seeding.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org/soccer