There won’t be any surprises when the Seattle Sounders take on defending champions Monterrey in Matchday 2 of the CONCACAF Champions League group stage on Tuesday (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer). The Mexican giants, who won the 2010 CCL title over Real Salt Lake this past spring, return to the competition with an almost unchanged roster.
New signing César Delgado joins fellow Argentine Neri Cardozo, Mexican international Aldo de Nigris, and Chile’s Humberto Suazo on a Rayados team dotted with international players. With Monterrey besting Seattle twice in the 2010 competition, coach Sigi Schmid knows his Sounders are in for a torrid affair.
“It’s going to be a difficult game, a difficult opponent in a difficult place to play,” Schmid said of the Sounders’ trip to Monterrey.
Seattle got off to a great start in CCL, posting a 4-1 victory over Guatemalan opponents CSD Comunicaciones last week in the group-stage opener. However, any thoughts of group supremacy hinge on the Sounders’ performance against Monterrey, who opened their CCL campaign with a 5-0 thrashing of Herediano in San José, Costa Rica.
Schmid is bracing for another competitive affair after Seattle’s reserves came agonizingly close to knocking off Monterrey away last season.
In that match, Mike Fucito staked Seattle to a lead, scoring once and influencing an own goal as Seattle led 2-0 at halftime. However, los Rayados fought back through de Nigris and Suazo, scoring three goals in four minutes to snatch the 3-2 victory.
“It was a case of we played a lot of our reserves and the guys did well, got a couple of good goals,” Schmid said of that match. “Then we had a bad period of time where we needed a little bit of organization and experience, and hopefully we’ll have that organization and experience this year.”
The Sounders traveled south on Monday, heading to Mexico directly from their away match at FC Dallas this past weekend. Schmid takes solace in the fact that Seattle has made this same journey before.
Competing in Mexico and Central America can be a different beast, with food, travel, transportation and weather all potentially different to a team used to playing in the United States. In that regard, last season’s experience proved invaluable even though Seattle weren’t pleased with the results.
“We know what to expect now when we’re going in there,” Schmid said. “[The players] know what the field conditions are going to be like, they know what the hotel’s going to be like. And so that’s a big plus.”
Seattle, who are in the middle of a stretch of six games in 18 days, are expected to rotate players into the starting lineup. After Tuesday’s CCL match, Seattle face the Eastern Conference-leading Columbus Crew at home on Aug. 27 before a US Open Cup semifinal against FC Dallas on Aug. 30. With those matches in mind, Schmid plans to get some reserve players some time against Monterrey.
“Winning in Monterrey is going to be a tough task, no matter what squad we send out there,” Schmid said. “But we feel we’ve got a good mix of players, where we can send out some players with experience who maybe haven’t played as many minutes as the other guys.”
Andrew Winner covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewWinnerMLS