CCL: Sounders look to clinch with MLS stretch run in mind
TUKWILA, Wash. – Multiple competitions and matches all across the continent have made the Seattle Sounders’ season a bit more complicated than most.
By winning Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League group stage match against Marathón (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer), the Sounders would clinch a spot in the quarterfinals for a second straight year and make the season’s goals a bit more straightforward.
"A win would put it to rest,” Sounders defender Patrick Ianni said prior to leaving for Honduras on Monday. “That [final game of the group stage] won't mean anything and we can just focus on MLS Cup when we get back."
Perhaps showing just how serious they are about taking care of business sooner than later, the Sounders have traveled with many of their starters. Among the starters to make the trip are Eddie Johnson, Fredy Montero, Osvaldo Alonso and Michael Gspurning.
Also making the trip is Mario Martínez, a native of Honduras who got his professional start with Real España, Marathón’s cross-town rival.
“For him, I think it’s a great opportunity,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid told the team’s website. “Everyone likes to come back to where they are from and say, 'Hey, I’m doing OK and my team’s good.' I expect a big performance out of him. I think he’s going to be very motivated and want to do well.”
Although Marathón are one of Honduras’ most decorated clubs, this year has not been a good season for them. The team, nicknamed El Monstruo Verde (The Green Monster), is currently tied for last place halfway through the Honduran Primera División’s Apertura season, though have picked up form recently, going unbeaten in their last three.
Having lost at Marathón in their 2010 meeting, the Sounders are determined not to be lulled into a false sense of security.
"I expect it to be a battle,” said Ianni, noting that the grass and weather make any game in Central America a challenge. “I think if we go in with that mentality we'll be all right. Always expect a battle. If it becomes easier, great, but don’t go in there thinking its going to be easy. We've just got to be mentally prepared to battle and we'll be good."
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.