David Estrada, start stretching. Mike Fucito, get taped up. Taylor Graham and Zach Scott, start jogging.
With Seattle’s loss to Saprissa on Tuesday night in the CONCACAF Champions League—their third loss in three group matches—their chances of advancement are close to nil. Which means the reserves will likely see out the rest of the competition as the organization focuses on more pressing matters, such as the push for the MLS playoffs and next month’s US Open Cup title game.
Earlier in the week, goalkeeper Kasey Keller said that if the Sounders failed to get a point in Costa Rica, they would probably field reserves for the final three games.
But don’t think that such a circumstance is all negative. There is a silver lining. With the MLS season and the US Open Cup schedules taking their toll on Seattle—and other clubs—the chance for reserve players to play and enhance their standing at the club could be vital down the stretch.
Miguel Montano fell out of favor after a red card against FC Dallas. Strong performances in the CCL could help the teenager find his way back onto the field more regularly. Estrada has played rarely after sliding down the pecking order at outside midfield. Graham and Tyrone Marshall, who both started against Saprissa, have lost out to the first-choice pairing of Patrick Ianni and Jeff Parke. Goalkeeper Terry Boss can earn valuable experience and seal his position as backup to Kasey Keller.
While it isn’t an ideal situation, it’s the one the Sounders find themselves in after Tuesday’s disappointing loss in San Jose.
In the end, Seattle have no one to blame but itself. Leo Gonzalez, who had been getting heckled by the Costa Rican crowd, earned a red card in the first half for a rash challenge. That, of course, made a result a nearly impossible proposition in one of the most difficult places to play in North America.
Seattle did manage to mount a few threatening attacks. But to no avail. Fredy Montero was not his usual dangerous self, failing to create chances for himself or others. (Though Montero nearly single-handedly earned the penalty that Osvaldo Alonso then did not convert.) Seattle registered only three shots on goal. The club showed more spirit in the late stages of the match, but that effort manifested itself in yellow cards, not goals.
So perhaps the reserves will have better luck. Their first chance comes in eight days’ time when Seattle travel to Mexico to face group leaders Monterrey.
But more importantly, the reserves will get some vital playing time that could end up paying dividends later.