First place in the group. Six points from two matches. In the driver’s seat in Group D.
What a difference a year makes.
Seattle’s CCL campaign is off to a smashing start as the visiting Sounders rolled into Monterrey’s Estadio Tecnológico on Tuesday night and emerged with a 1-0 victory. In just two group-stage matches, Seattle have already surpassed their win total from the 2010-11 tournament and now sit atop Group D.
The victory had midfielder Brad Evans buzzing.
“Bottom line, that’s what championship teams are made of,” said Evans, who started and played 90 minutes for Seattle. “You win when it’s tough. You win when it’s easy. You win when you’re not supposed to.”
WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
Even fielding a depleted starting lineup, Seattle managed to defeat the club Sigi Schmid called "the best in Mexico." With Kasey Keller, Mauro Rosales and Fredy Montero out of the lineup, the Sounders were able to call on World Cup veteran Álvaro Fernández, who scored the winning goal off a pass from Pat Noonan.
“To come into Monterrey and win gives our team confidence as we go into games in the future,” said Schmid. “Obviously we left some very important players on our team at home because of the amount of games that we play. So to win with the team we had we are very, very pleased.”
Noonan, who started up front alongside Nate Jaqua, conceded that the goal came against the run of play for Seattle. Just as they did last weekend in a 1-0 win against FC Dallas, the Sounders managed only two shots on goal.
However, as it was in Dallas, one goal was enough.
"I had a lot of time and space and up to that point we weren't getting a lot of time and space,” Noonan said. “It was a very good build-up for us.”
“I just kind of saw Flaco making a through run and I thought, ‘Maybe if I can squeeze this through, we get a chance on goal,’” Noonan added of his pass to Fernández. “We hadn't had many chances on goal and it worked out for us. He finished it very well and it put us in a position to win the game, which we did."
In the afterglow of the victory, Schmid mentioned a familiar theme from the 2011 season: maturity. Already this year, Seattle have posted gritty away victories in league play against Real Salt Lake, rivals Portland, Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas. Now, they can add Monterrey’s name to that list.
“I think the difference for us was that we have grown up a little bit as a team,” Schmid said. “We are more mature now. With the experience we had last year, we know what to expect and we didn’t make silly mistakes because we have grown up a little bit.”
Andrew Winner covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewWinnerMLS