SEATTLE – Kasey Keller knows the stakes. Coming into Tuesday’s CONCACAF Champions League match against Costa Rica’s Saprissa, the veteran goalkeeper laid bare the importance of the match.
“We need to win some games if we want to advance in this competition,” Keller said. “We’re frustrated because the two games that we have played, we comfortably feel we could easily have four points right now and we have none.”
Seattle currently sit in last place in Group C, but could jump into a tie for second if they defeat Saprissa and Monterrey defeat Marathón the same night. Those results would mean Seattle is “right back in this thing,” according to Keller.
During the past several weeks, coach Sigi Schmid said he was taking all three competitions the Sounders were involved in—MLS league play, the US Open Cup and the CONCACAF Champions League—with equal seriousness. However, a loss to Saprissa could change the club’s approach to future matches, especially if it were highly unlikely the team would advance.
With the Sounders looking forward to the Open Cup championship game in October and the team’s spot in the MLS Playoffs not assured, Keller provided some realism.
“If we lose this game, then it probably becomes three reserve games after that,” Keller said.
At training on Saturday, Schmid said the club had planned on taking approximately 20 players to Costa Rica for Tuesday’s match. From there, the same group intended to fly directly to Columbus for Saturday’s league match against the Crew.
One player who was not scheduled to travel to Costa Rica was James Riley, who is nursing an ankle injury. Schmid said Saturday that the right back may join the team in Ohio.
Alvaro Fernandez, who traveled to Uruguay to see his wife and newborn son after the Real Salt Lake match, was slated to join the team in Costa Rica on Monday.
With an important league game against Columbus looming for the weekend, Schmid may opt to hold some starters out of the lineup.
Jeff Parke estimated the split between “starters” and “reserves” would be approximately seven and four.
“It’s definitely important for us to get at least a point and be back in the tournament a bit,” Parke said. “If you can maybe get a win at home, you can leapfrog some of the teams.”
After playing two of the first three matches on the road, Seattle entertain Marathón on Sept. 29 and Saprissa on Oct. 19. A road game at Monterrey on Sept. 22 rounds out the group stage schedule.