SEATTLE — With qualification already assured and some players facing suspension in the quarterfinals if they picked up another yellow card, the Seattle Sounders utilized their depth against Monterrey in their CONCACAF Champions League Group D finale on Tuesday.
The match gave forward Sammy Ochoa and goalkeeper Bryan Meredith a chance to earn their first starts for the club, albeit in a 2-1 loss. But despite the outcome, head coach Sigi Schmid liked what he saw from both players.
“I thought Meredith played well for a guy in his first game, and this was a fairly big game,” Schmid said. “I thought he was composed. I didn't think he could do much on either goal.”
After an emotional night for captain Kasey Keller, Seattle felt they should give the 41-year-old ‘keeper a night off. With second-stringer Josh Ford resting a knee injury, Meredith saw his first match action as a Sounder, allowing two goals and recording a save against the defending CCL champions.
On the second goal, Meredith might have done a better job of standing his ground before the shot, but Schmid said that’s something “that will come with experience.”
While it was his first start for Seattle, Ochoa has already made three substitute appearances for Seattle during league play, notching a goal in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over San Jose.
Signed in late August, the Sounders' training staff has been working Ochoa into shape in preparation for the playoff run, and the work has paid off: Ochoa played 74 minutes on short rest before being relieved by Mike Fucito.
For a Sounders team that has tried several players alongside Fredy Montero, Ochoa could be a player to watch for this season and beyond. The Sounders spent a third-round draft pick to move up in the allocation order to sign the former Estudiantes Tecos player.
“I felt good,” Ochoa said. “I was happy to get the start, but we didn't get the win, but we felt like we did better than the other team. We just weren't lucky in our finishing."
Andrew Winner covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com.