Seattle faced this same Liga MX side in the 2021 Leagues Cup Final in Las Vegas, falling 3-2 in a hotly contested match at Allegiant Stadium. Seattle actually scored first in the contest through a Cristian Roldan opener, only to relinquish the second-half lead and miss out on their first international trophy.
Speaking to reporters before Tuesday's opener, Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said there's plenty to glean from the narrow defeat ahead of the upcoming CCL series.
"We did show a couple of clips from our game last year, just in the mental build-up of this, you know: Is there a little bit of payback?" Schmetzer said. "That game in Las Vegas could have gone a different way. We had a really good sequence after Cristian scored the first goal where we got in behind and Raul [Ruidiaz] hit the post. So we reminded them of the mentality of things and how you put teams away. We talked about some of that for sure."
Despite last year's defeat, Roldan believes they're poised to make life challenging for Club Leon.
After a 5-0 aggregate triumph in Seattle's Round of 16 series against Honduran side FC Motagua, Roldan said this quarterfinal bout may come down to minimizing the individual errors that León ruthlessly punished in 2021's Leagues Cup.
"I think number one, you have to be focused all 90 minutes against these type of teams," Roldan said. "One minute, one lapse of concentration can cost you the game and I think that's what happened against us in the final in Leagues Cup. We were centimeters, inches away from scoring our second goal and then a minute later they score. I think that's one thing that we have to be ready for, and that's be mentally focused throughout the 90 minutes.
"They're a transition team, a team that can put numbers forward real fast and the fact that we played them already gives us a lot of confidence. We know what to expect when we play them. For us, it's a little bit of an advantage because we've got players back that didn't play in that game and now we're playing those guys."
Matters will be complicated for Seattle, as Schmetzer confirmed that they'll be without Ruidiaz and veteran backup forward Will Bruin. Both are working their way back from injury.
Sans their top two strikers, a positive result on Tuesday becomes more challenging, but no less critical ahead of Leg 2 at Estadio León on March 17. The series winner gets New York City FC or Guatemala's Comunicaciones FC in the semifinals.
"Winning is critical, I think everybody understands that," Schmetzer said. "We're at home. It is the first leg of a two-legged series, so there are some nuances there. But obviously we want to win.
"You have to play aggressive at home, it's your home field. In a two-legged series, again, there are some nuances, but we're definitely going to play a little more aggressive at home and then the result of the first game will dictate how you play in the second game. That's logical."