Coach Sigi Schmid says Sounders FC is aiming for a draw tonight – and “preferably a win, if we can.”
While such pragmatism lacks the romance of winning one for the Gipper, it also reflects a mathematical calculation to group play in CONCACAF Champions League.
It is, in effect, a race to the number 11.
With teams awarded three points for wins and one point for draws, no club has ever failed to advance to the knockout round with 11 or more points from its six games in group. Some teams have gone through with as few as eight points, and 10 almost always does it.
A third of the way through group play, Seattle already has six points and hopes to build on that tonight at Herediano of Costa Rica, which has lost its first two games.
And while that seems to make this an inviting spot for the Sounders to snag another three points, Schmid figures that would just be a nice addition to the mathematical path he envisioned before the competition.
“Our goal all along going into CONCACAF was we wanted to win all our games at home,” Schmid said. “So far we’ve only had one home game, and we won that one. We’ve got Herediano at home next week, so we want to win that. The win in Monterrey was a bonus for us. If we can get 10 points, we’ve got a good chance of going through and getting first or second; and if we can get 12 points, even better. So we want to get at least a tie out here, preferably a win if we can.”
If the Sounders sweep Herediano tonight and Tuesday, they would be up to 12 points – a total certain enough to let them return primary attention to the ongoing Major League Soccer regular season and their U.S. Open Cup final against Chicago on Oct. 4.
“The sooner we can achieve our goal of advancing to the quarterfinals of CONCACAF then that allows us to focus a little more on our goal in MLS,” Schmid said. “Right now we’re trying to keep both goals in our sight, but the game Saturday against D.C. is very important for league. The game against Herediano at home is also very important. And the game (tonight) is like a bonus game.”
With that in mind, Schmid left three potential starters (Brad Evans, Erik Friberg and Osvaldo Alosno) at home this week – despite his belief that a coaching change has upgraded Herediano from the pushover it appeared to be in its 5-0 home loss to Monterrey and its 2-0 road loss to Comunicaciones.
“They’re excited, so they’re playing with a newfound enthusiasm, so they’re going to be a very dangerous team,” Schmid said.
SOUNDERS FC AT CS HEREDIANO (COSTA RICA)
7 p.m., Estadio Alejandro Morerra Soto; Alajuela, Costa Rica.
TV: Fox Soccer. RADIO: None.
HEAD TO HEAD: First meeting.
NOTES: Seattle is at the top of CONCACAF Champions League Group D with a 2-0 record and six points. Herediano is at the bottom with an 0-2 record and has been outscored 7-0. The other teams in Group D, Monterrey (Mexico) and Comunicaciones (Guatemala), are both 1-1. Each group team plays the other three home-and-away, and the top two in the group advance to the knockout round. ... Herediano was founded in 1921 when three clubs from around Heredia, C.R., merged. The club has won 21 Costa Rican league titles, behind Saprissa (29) and Alajuelense (26). The club qualified for its second Champions League appearance by finishing second in the Invierno season and having a better record than Verano runner-up San Carlos over both seasons. ... This season, Herediano is 5-2-2 in its domestic league, led by Olman Vargas Lopez’s four goals. Sounders FC is 13-6-9 in MLS, led by Fredy Montero’s seven goals. ... Seattle defender Leo Gonzalez made 154 appearances with Herediano from 2000-2009. ... Sounders midfielders Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans and Erik Friberg did not travel to Costa Rica. However, defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado is expected to play 90 minutes after picking up a red card in a league game Saturday, which shortened his minutes in that game and makes him ineligible for Seattle’s next MLS game.
QUOTABLE: “Herediano is a team that’s a dangerous team right now. It’s a different team than the one that lost to Monterrey and a different team that lost to Comunicaciones. They had a coaching change. ... It’s a situation where the players are out now for Herediano to prove themselves to a new coach.” – Sounders coach Sigi Schmid.
NEXT: The Sounders return to MLS regular-season play at 6 p.m. Saturday, meeting D.C. United at CenturyLink Field. The Sounders’ next Champions League match is 7 p.m. Tuesday, when Herediano visits.
Don Ruiz, staff writer