CCL Preview: Sounders look to next step at Marathon

CD MARATHÓN vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC
Estadio Olimpico, San Pedro Sula, Honduras

CONCACAF Champions League, Group 4
Sept. 19, 2012
10 pm ET (Fox Soccer)

After the first two rounds of this year's CONCACAF Champions League group stage, Seattle (2-0-0, 6 points) is in full control on Group 4. Sounders FC beat Caledonia home and away by the same score line of 3-1, giving Seattle a group-best plus-four goal differential. Caledonia (0-2-1, 1 point) has been eliminated from the tournament with one match remaining. Seattle's final two matches will be against CD Marathón (0-0-1, 1 point) of Honduras. The two-leg series begins September 19 in San Pedro Sula and concludes October 24 in Seattle.

Overall, five of 24 teams have earned six points in the first two group stage matches of this year's tournament: Mexico's Santos Laguna and Monterrey, Costa Rica's Herediano, and the Seattle Sounders FC and LA Galaxy. Seattle's plus-four goal differential is tied for fourth-best in the tournament.

 

Sounders injury report: OUT: FW Babayele Sodade (R knee ACL tear); DEF Andrew Duran (L ACL surgery); QUESTIONABLE: GK Andrew Weber (R adductor strain); FW David Estrada (L foot fracture); PROBABLE: MF Mauro Rosales (R quad strain); MF Christian Tiffert (R ankle sprain)

At Home on the Road

Sounders FC has been a strong road team since entering MLS in 2009. Seattle has earned the second-highest point total away from home over the past four seasons, going 24-17-21 in MLS play. The success on the road has extended to Champions League play as Sounders FC has an away record of 3-5-2, going unbeaten in its past four (3-0-1) road group stage matches. Seattle has been held scoreless just twice in the 10 away games, scoring 13 goals while allowing 19, six of which came against last year's runners up Santos Laguna. Fredy Montero leads the club with six goals and six assists in Champions League play, sharing the club lead in this year's tournament with Sammy Ochoa (two goals, one assist). Both Alex Caskey and Andy Rose have tallied a goal and two assists this year.

Wednesday's match will mark the homecoming of another Sounder in CCL action. Mario Martinez will play in his hometown of San Pedro Sula against his former club Real Espana's league opponent Marathón. Earlier this year, Cordell Cato returned to his native Trinidad to face Caledonia. In year's past, Leo Gonzalez has played in Costa Rica and Servando Carrasco, David Estrada and Sammy Ochoa have played in Mexico.

Club: CD Marathón (HON)
Founded: 1925
City: San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Stadium: Estadio Olimpico
Manager: Manuel Keosseian
Qualification method: Non-champion with best aggregate record in Honduran 2011-12 season
Previous CONCACAF Champions League appearances: 2008-09 (Quarterfinals), 2009-10 (Quarterfinals), 2010-11 (Group Stage)
Honors: Honduran League - 8 (1979-80, 1985-86, Clausura 2001-02, Clausura 2002-03, Apertura 2004-05, 2007-08 Apertura, 2008-09 Apertura, 2009-10 Apertura); Honduran Cup - 1 (1994)
Official website: http://www.cdMarathón.com

Formed in 1925 by Eloy Montes and his friends, Club Deportivo Marathón is one of the most prestigious clubs in Honduras and will be making its fourth CONCACAF Champions League appearance. Marathón qualified for each of the first three competitions, reaching the quarterfinals in the first two years. In 2008-09 "El Monstruo Verde" (The Green Monster) won its group, but was upset by the Puerto Rico Islanders in the knockout stage. In 2009-10, Marathón fell to Pumas UNAM of Mexico in the quarterfinals.

The only Honduran team to beat Argentine powerhouse River Plate, Marathón is coached by Manuel Keosseian, who led the club to three titles from 2007-2009 and replaced Ramón Maradiaga just before the start of the Champions League.

Marathón is led by Honduran international defender Jerry Palacios, who competed in the 2010 World Cup with brothers Johnny and Wilson. They became the first trio of siblings to represent a single nation in the same World Cup. Veteran defenders Mario Beata and Mauricio Sabillón also highlight the squad.

Champions return and homecoming

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras – A lot can change in 25 months in the world of soccer.

On August 19, 2010, the Sounders FC met Marathón in Seattle’s first CONCACAF Champions League group stage match after getting past Metapán from El Salvador in the preliminary round.  Since then, the Sounders have played in some of the most difficult club stadiums in CONCACAF, meeting Mexico’s Monterrey and Santos Laguna and Saprissa from Costa Rica head-on in their first two efforts in the Champions League.

Along the way, they have played a total of 20 matches in the Champions League and are a much more road-tested group. They are also poised to clinch advancement to the quarterfinals if they can top Marathón at Estadio Olimpico in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on Wednesday night in the third of four matches in the group stage.

“There’s a big difference in our experience level,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “With few exceptions, almost everybody on our team has played in a CONCACAF game and played in a CONCACAF game on the road. If we take care of business and play with the composure that we’ve gained over those games, we’ll be alright.”

Only two players remain from the Marathón side that the Sounders faced on their last trip to San Pedro Sula. Even the Sounders side is vastly different, with only six of the 14 players that appeared in that match still in Rave Green.

The two teams that meet may be far different on the roster card, but Schmid expects to see a similar gameplan from Marathón head coach Manuel Keosseian.

That style has been effective in Honduras. Marathón has won the top league in Honduras nine times and is in the Champions League for the fourth time in the last five years, missing out on the tournament last year.

“They’re a good, solid team,” Schmid said. “The coach is the same coach they had in 2010. He was gone for the beginning of last year, but then came back, so they’re pretty similar in their playing style.”

The Sounders, meanwhile, will be without Christian Tiffert and Mauro Rosales as both rest injuries back home in Seattle as they prepare for a league match against the San Jose Earthquakes at CenturyLink Field on Saturday.

That balance between mid-week Champions League matches and MLS matches is nothing new for the Sounders, though, in their third consecutive season competing in the regional tournament.

Although Tiffert and Rosales won’t be available in the midfield, Mario Martínez certainly will. The 23-year-old midfielder was in San Pedro Sula just last week playing with the Honduran national team against Cuba in 2014 World Cup qualifying matches and played six seasons with Real España, Marathón’s chief rival.

“Mario will be the star and will be the focus. The other guys can just concentrate on the game and let Mario do all the press interviews,” laughed Schmid.

That focus can instead be placed on advancement to the quarterfinals. The Sounders started off the tournament 2-0-0 with a pair of 3-1 wins over Caledonia from Trinidad, easing their road to the quarterfinals over the final two matches, as Marathón managed a draw in their only match against Caledonia.

A win for Seattle on Wednesday would render the result in the Sounders FC’s final match of the group stage at CenturyLink Field on October 24.

“A tie would be good,” said defender Patrick Ianni.  “ A win would put it to rest and that’s what we want to do. We don’t want that game at the end of the season to mean anything.”

-- Matt Gaschk, SoundersFC.com