In literal terms, it's been less than three months since Seattle Sounders FC played their last competitive match.
In the minds of players at one of the most decorated and talented clubs in MLS, Thursday’s Concacaf Champions League opener in Honduras against FC Motagua (9 pm ET | FS2, TUDN) marks the end of an interminable wait.
The Sounders' 2021 campaign concluded weeks earlier than most expected when they were eliminated on penalty kicks to Real Salt Lake in Round One of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
Now a side that finished second in the Western Conference and third in the 2021 Supporters' Shield race opens 2022 with nearly everyone returned, plus a bolstered attack that includes new arrival Albert Rusnak and a healthier Jordan Morris and Nicolas Lodeiro.
Leg 1 of their CCL Round of 16 series is the first chance to put things right, with external expectations surging.
"We're ready, we're excited. This was a long time coming for us," said midfielder Cristian Roldan. "We've been wanting to play a real game for a long time, and now is our opportunity. It will be enjoyable to see the team come together."
The Sounders can also avenge the disappointment from their last CCL appearance, looking to become MLS' first winner of the competition's modern-day iteration.
In February 2020, Seattle made a similar trip to open their continental campaign against Motagua’s domestic rivals CD Olimpia.
Despite two goals from Seattle debutant Joao Paulo and one each from Roldan and Morris, the Sounders were held to a 4-4 draw on aggregate before being eliminated on their home turf on penalty kicks.
That experience has quelled any illusions of an easy time on Thursday night.
“I think it’s going to be a difficult game,” Roldan said. “Obviously, the field plays a little bit slow, so it’ll be a bit of a slower game. But you know, these Central American teams, when they’re playing at home, they play really well. They play with confidence, they play with urgency, intensity, so it’s going to be a difficult game for us."
One key difference from two years ago is that there will be an absence of fans in San Pedro Sula. But even that won’t provide the visitors much of an edge, Roldan insists.
“It changes in a sense that there’s less hostility in the stands, but you’ll see it on the field,” he said of the Olímpico Metropolitano environment. “And if anything, you kind of want to play against that hostility, and it’s unfortunate that they aren’t going to have their fans here.”