With their top three central midfielders not making the trip to Costa Rica, the Seattle Sounders face a crisis in the middle before Wednesday’s CCL encounter at Herediano of Costa Rica (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer).
Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans and Erik Friberg all stayed in Seattle while the rest of the Sounders traveled south, leaving the team short-handed in the engine room for Matchday 3.
Servando Carrasco, who entered the match for an injured Friberg and played 59 minutes against Real Salt Lake this past Saturday, would be an option to start in a holding midfield role. Álvaro Fernández (above), who has at times played center midfield, could partner him, as could recent signing Amadou Sanyang. With attacking midfielder Mike Seamon also being placed on the Disabled List on Monday, the Sounders suddenly find themselves stretched.
Even so, Seattle’s position at the top of their group will afford some leeway. Wins against Comunicaciones at home and Monterrey on the road have them sitting pretty with a perfect six points with four matches to play, including two at home.
Head coach Sigi Schmid is looking at this match is a luxury, and it’s possible that his gameday XI may reflect that viewpoint. Even coming off a disappointing 2-1 loss to Western Conference rivals RSL, Schmid may see fit to rest his starters just as he did in Monterrey.
“It’s a little bit like when we lost in Houston,” Schmid told reporters on a conference call on Monday about rebounding from the RSL loss. “We just have to get back up on that bicycle and start riding again.”
“This is a game where we decided to leave some players at home and rest them in preparation for the D.C. United game,” he added, “but we feel very confident in the squad we have down here with us and we think we have a good chance of being successful.”
Schmid looks to the upcoming weekend tilt against D.C. United as a “very important” match, as is the upcoming home match against this same Herediano team on Sept. 20. With his team entering the Champions League group stage with the intention of winning all three of its home games, Schmid said this Wednesday’s match is “like a bonus game.”
“If we can get three points out of that, it’s a huge bonus,” Schmid said.
Schmid estimates that 10 or preferably 12 points from the group stage would be enough to claim one of the top two spots and advance to the knockout round.
In an attempt to break up the long trip to Costa Rica, Seattle flew to Dallas on Monday. After two training sessions at FC Dallas’ training facility in Frisco, Texas, the Sounders will complete the trip to Costa Rica on Tuesday.
“By the time you get from the airport to the hotel, it ends up being a 13- to 14-hour travel day, so we’re looking at cutting the travel day in half,” Schmid said, noting that flying commercially from Seattle entails catching a connection.
Andrew Winner covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com