TUKWILA, Wash. — The lessons of last year still weigh heavy on the Seattle Sounders.
Heading into their final CONCACAF Champions League group stage game a year ago, the Sounders had already qualified for the knockout round. But the loss at home to Monterrey meant the they had to play a group winner in the quarterfinals. That turned out to be eventual finalist Santos Laguna, who went on to beat the Sounders 7-3 on aggregate.
“We’ve been a team that learns from our mistakes,” midfielder Brad Evans said. “In Champions League, we’ve progressed every year in getting better and better.”
To continue that trend, the Sounders would need to get at least to the semifinals. Avoiding one of the top teams early in this year’s tournament would be a good start.
With a win on Wednesday against Marathón (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer), they'd ensure themselves no worse than the third seed. That would put off a possible showdown with Mexican powers Monterrey or Santos Laguna until at least the semifinals.
A loss could result in Seattle finishing as low as seventh seed. If everything ends the way it sits after Tuesday’s results, the Sounders would be fourth and play the Houston Dynamo in the quarters.
Of course, with Mexico’s Tigres UANL and Chivas de Guadalajara still struggling to qualify, it’s not as if any finishing spot is exactly guaranteed to be easy.
The Sounders will attempt to take all of that into account, while being mindful that a similar situation awaits them with their final league game on Sunday.
“It's nice to be able to know that we can play a bit of a mixed lineup,” head coach Sigi Schmid said. “Obviously we still want to come out with a result. We're going to take a pretty sharp pencil to it and see what makes sense.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.