CCL Preview: Sounders will go for the win in Guatemala
GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — If zigzagging the continent — making three cross-continent trips in the span of seven days — wasn’t enough, the Seattle Sounders have an extra goal for Tuesday night’s CONCACAF Champions League match here against Comunicaciones:
They want to win.
One point in Guatemala on Tuesday (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer) would see the Sounders through to the CONCACAF Champions League group stage, since Seattle would continue to lead Comunicaciones by three points with one match to play, and the tournament’s first tie-breaker is points earned head to head. The Sounders beat the Guatemalan team, 4-1, on the first match day.
But the general feeling in the Sounders camp seems to be that playing defensively and hoping for a draw is not the way to go in what is sure to be a hostile environment at Cementos Progreso Stadium.
“This team doesn’t really know how to come out and just play defensively and try to get a point,” said Álvaro Fernández at training on Monday. “We’re always going to attack and try to win the game, and that’s what we’ll do.”
The Sounders didn’t do themselves any favors by dropping their first points of the CCL group stage last week against last place Group D side Herediano, but they still need only a draw on Tuesday to assure classification to the knockout stage and avoid a final date must-win next month against defending CCL champions Monterrey.
“The truth is, we’re obligated to get at least one point to assure ourselves of qualifying,” said Fernández. “And then we have Monterrey, which is a team with a great level, which will be a very complicated game.”
While Seattle have a little more leeway, a loss almost certainly eliminates Comunicaciones from the tournament. So goals won’t come cheaply against the Cremas, who have already won twice at home in this CCL campaign, including a convincing victory over Monterrey earlier this month.
“We’ve played them before, so we kind of know what we’re dealing with,” said attacker Lamar Neagle. “But we’ve decided on this trip we want to focus on ourselves, and what we’re doing, rather than trying to accommodate the other team.”
The Sounders are in the midst of a road trip that will take them to the corners of the continent. After beginning with a win in Vancouver on Saturday, the team flew south to Guatemala by way of Dallas. From here, they’ll travel to New England for a weekend match, then fly back across the country to host Chicago midweek in the US Open Cup final on Oct. 4.
Given that itinerary, securing a place in the CCL group phase would mean at least one mission completed early on, and a little less congestion on the upcoming fixture schedule as the Sounders continue their quest for MLS hardware.
“We knew going into it that it was going to be a tough trip with some tough games, but that’s our mentality and we’ve just got to get through it,” Neagle said. “It’s definitely an important game, we’re still in it even if we don’t get a win out of this game. But we definitely want to win it, get it over with. We have a lot of other tournaments going on, and hopefully we can lock up our place in CONCACAF.”