Seattle toughed out a result on the road in El Salvador, but now the Group of Death awaits.
Courtesy of Seattle Sounders FC

Young Sounders grow up, book CCL berth

So far, so good for Seattle.

After earning a 1-1 draw in San Salvador on Tuesday, the club’s first taste of international action ended in a 2-1 aggregate triumph against El Salvador’s Isidro Metapán. The real challenges lie ahead, as Seattle enter the group that some analysts call the toughest in the CONCACAF Champions League.

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Monterrey of Mexico and Costa Rica’s Saprissa have already been drawn into Group C. They will likely be joined by Honduras’ Marathón, who holds a 3-0 advantage over Tauro in their preliminary-round match. Those clubs will offer stiffer opposition than Metapán, a club from one of the federation’s smaller leagues that was still in its preseason preparations.

Goalkeeper Kasey Keller acknowledged as much, saying in his postgame comments that “we never should have lost to that team over two legs.”

Despite what Keller clearly feels is a gap in quality between the two teams, it was a good win in inclement conditions for the young Sounders. With the rain pouring down and the condition of the field rapidly deteriorating, the club kept its composure and bounced back from conceding an early goal to earn a draw. After creating a handful of chances, Seattle got the winning goal from Uruguayan international Álvaro Fernández.

“Let’s be honest, not the best conditions to play a game under,” Keller said. “We have got a young team and these experiences we need to learn from. Hopefully we learned a bit today.”

The six group-stage matches will be stuffed into the MLS schedule between mid-August and October. For a team that is still scrambling to collect enough points to guarantee a playoff spot, the schedule congestion will place an added emphasis on squad rotation.

The ownership group, which stated an intention to compete in the FIFA Club World Cup, is now one step closer to that goal. Despite the outcome, competing in the group stage of the Champions League will give Seattle valuable experience at the international level.

The victory marks the conclusion of a grueling stretch of four matches in 10 games. Three Sounders— James Riley, Kasey Keller and Sanna Nyassi—started each game including Tuesday’s encounter in El Salvador.

Osvaldo Alonso started and played the entire match for Seattle. After entering the first leg for the injured Pete Vagenas, the Cuban has now played 346 minutes in the past four matches despite recently recovering from a quad injury. Fredy Montero has also played in each of the four matches, scoring two goals and adding one assist.

Schmid lauded his star striker for his effort in recent matches.

“Our [team] character right now is exemplified by Fredy Montero because the effort he is putting in game after game,” Schmid said. “He is leading the way for us but everyone is stepping up to the opportunities that get presented and nobody is letting anybody down.”