There may be no tougher challenge in CONCACAF Champions League than the one Sounders FC faces tonight: meeting defending champion Monterrey on its home pitch.
At stake will be the early lead in CCL Group D, since both teams come into tonight’s match after opening group play with one-sided wins. Seattle took a 4-1 home victory over Comunicaciones of Guatemala, while Monterrey went to Costa Rica and torched Herediano, 5-0. Dario Carreno scored three goals in a 14-minute stretch in that one.
“Obviously Monterrey is a quality team,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said this week. “We knew that from last year. …Eighty percent of their team is still there. They’ve added a very good player in (Argentine midfielder Cesar) Delgado. … Obviously they had a great game in the CCL. It’s going to be a difficult game – a difficult opponent in a difficult place to play.”
The Sounders also were in Monterrey’s group in the 2010 CCL and lost both head-to-head matches.
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However, they got off to an encouraging start in their first visit to Estadio Tecnologico, surging to a 2-0 lead before surrendering three goals at Monterrey’s home stadium.
Schmid thinks his club could put that experience to use tonight.
“We know what to expect now when we’re going in there,” he said. “(We) also have an idea of the style of play a little bit better than last year; because you can talk about it, but until you get out there and experience it they’re not quite sure how it’s different or how they need to respond differently as a team.”
Seattle wasn’t the only club that had trouble with Monterrey last season. The Rayados went 5-0-1 in group play, outscoring opponents, 11-4.
Monterrey advanced, 2-0, over Toluca in the quarterfinal; beat Cruz Azul, 3-2, in the semifinal; then beat Real Salt Lake, 3-2, in the final.
The Rayados are 10-0-3 in their past 13 CCL matches. Over the last three seasons in the Mexican Primera Division, they are 29-6-10 at home, outscoring visitors, 91-43.
However, this season Monterrey has started 3-3 in the league play, including a 2-1 loss to CD Guadalajara on Saturday.
The Sounders also played Saturday, taking a 1-0 win over FC Dallas that launched them into second place in the MLS standings.
With that game behind them and a return to league play Saturday at home against Columbus, Schmid indicated he will adjust his lineup tonight. Also looming is a rematch with Dallas, this time in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal one week from tonight at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.
“For us it’s important that we balance off our work and our rest because we have two big games coming up when we come back: Columbus at home, because we want to keep pushing the point total; and then we’ve got the Open Cup semifinal,” he said. “Winning in Monterrey is going to be a tough task, no matter what squad we send out there. But we feel we’ve got a good mix of players, where we can send out some players with experience who maybe haven’t played as many minutes as the other guys.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808
SOUNDERS FC (MLS) AT CF MONTERREY (MEXICO)
Time: 5 p.m. Where: Estadio Tecnologico, Monterrey, Mexico.
TV: Fox Soccer Channel.
Head to head: Monterrey leads, 2-0.
Notes: Early leadership of CONCACAF Champions League Group D hangs in the balance. This is each club’s second match in the group stage. Seattle opened with a 4-1 home win over Comunicaciones of Guatemala, while Monterrey took a 5-0 win over Herediano in Costa Rica. Those four Group D clubs will play each other home and away, with the top two advancing to the tournament’s knockout rounds. … Monterrey, the defending CCL champion, qualified this season by winning the 2010 Mexican Apertura championship. It has won the Mexican league title four times, Copa Mexico once, CONCACAF Cup Winners Cup once, and CCL once. … The club was founded in 1945, and is nicknamed the Rayados, in honor of its blue-striped jerseys. … Monterrey is off to a 3-3 start in the 2011 Mexican Apertura. Seattle is 12-5-9 in MLS. … The weather forecast calls for a high temperature around 95 with a chance of thunderstorms.
Quotable: “The guys did well, got a couple of good goals. Then we had a bad period of time where we needed a little bit of organization and experience, and hopefully we’ll have that organization and experience this year.” – Sounders coach Sigi Schmid on his club’s 3-2 loss at Monterrey last season.
Next: Seattle returns to MLS action at 1 p.m. Saturday, when Columbus visits CenturyLink Field. The Sounders’ next Champions League match is Sept. 14 at Herediano.