TUKWILA, Wash. — Seattle Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid has unique perspective on the CONCACAF Champions League, both in the recent and not-so-recent past.
As the head coach of the LA Galaxy, Schmid was the last MLS coach to win the CONCACAF trophy 11 years ago. Now in charge of Seattle, he's also the last MLS coach to face off against Real Salt Lake's opponents in this year's finals.
On the eve of RSL’s away match against Monterrey on Wednesday, Schmid took a moment to reflect on the tournament.
“The competition in 2000 was much different because it was a tournament where all the teams came to one location,” Schmid recalled of his 2000 title, when the tournament was called the CONCACAF Champions' Cup and was played over six days in January in the Los Angeles area. “You played your group games, then you advanced out of the group. It wasn’t the home-and-away competition it is now.”
Complicating matters for the Galaxy were a handful of injuries. Schmid recalled entering the tournament, which required three matches in six days, with problems along the back line and no healthy forwards. In particular, youngster Danny Califf came down with an injury and could not play, while recent signing Alexi Lalas was not fit for game action.
The problems along the front line were more urgent, requiring a creative solution from Schmid.
“We actually took a kid named Adam Frye, who had played forward for me when he was a freshman at UCLA and hadn’t played forward since, had played as a defender for five years, we played him as a center forward,” Schmid said.
After advancing via penalty shootouts in the team’s first two games, current Sounders assistant coach Ezra Hendrickson scored two goals in the final as LA defeated Olimpia of Honduras by a score of 3-2.
Ultimately, the Galaxy faced disappointment. Despite qualifying for the FIFA Club World Championship, the competition was canceled that season, robbing LA of the chance to play against some of the world’s best teams – including a date with Real Madrid at the Estadio Bernabéu.
On the eve of RSL’s first match in this year's Champions League finals, Schmid offered insight into Monterrey, whom beat Seattle twice in the group stage of this season’s CCL. In the second of the two group-stage matches last September, the Sounders got out to a 2-0 lead at Estadio Tecnológico before succumbing 3-2.
“We said that when we started in group play last year with our team that we were probably in the toughest group,” Schmid said. “Two of the four teams – you got one team in the final and the other team got knocked out in the semifinal. I think that shows that we were in the toughest group for sure.”
“They’re a good team," he said of los Rayados. "Monterrey is a difficult place to play at. Their stadium is a difficult place to play. We were able to get up on them but it was a game that they didn’t necessarily need to win so they probably approached the game a little bit differently and sat some players that are very important.”