The enigmatic Seattle Sounders are back in the CONCACAF Champions League once more by virtue of their 2011 US Open Cup win. Boasting an potentially lethal attack but inconsistent defensively, they will will need to draw on their resolute performances in last year’s group stage to have a real shot at becoming the first MLS side to win the Champions League.
Those showings were certainly a stride forward after the failure of the 2010-11 group-stage campaign, most notably a strong showing in Mexico, but the quarterfinals proved to be a bridge too far, with Seattle falling to a 7-3 aggregate defeat against Santos Laguna, including a 6-1 thrashing in Mexico.
The Sounders have certainly showed flashes of improvement since the loss back in March, but as a recent nine-game MLS winless streak indicated, there is still some work to be done as they get another CCL campaign underway.
Best Showing: Quarterfinals (2011-12) (The A-League edition Sounders reached the final group stage of the 1996 tournament.)
- Though FC Dallas were the first MLS team to win in Mexico, the Sounders achieved that rare feat not long after, and in arguably tougher circumstances. While Dallas defeated a Pumas UNAM side laden with reserves the Monterrey team the Sounders came up against at the Estadio Tecnológico was near full strength, feature well-known players throughout the lineup, including the likes of Humberto Suazo and Aldo de Nigris. Nonetheless, Álvaro Fernández struck seven minutes before the half and the Sounders defended resolutely to defeat the reigning champions.
- After winning the US Open Cup in their inaugural MLS season, the Sounders had to overcome a qualifying round against El Salvador’s Isidro Metapán before taking their place in their first-ever CCL group stage. A narrow 1-0 win in Seattle set the mood for a tense return leg in San Salvador, and though Metapan took an early lead, Fernández’s late goal in the pouring rain sealed advancement for the Sounders and sent the small contingent of traveling Sounders fans into delirium.
Who will they face?
Marathón: A fairly regular participant in the CCL, the storied Honduran club is back in the CONCACAF Champions league after a one-year absence, thanks to collecting the most points over the course of the 2011-12 season (aside from Olimpia, who won both stages).
They are a familiar foe for the Sounders, as the two teams squared off in the group stage of the 2010011 tournament. Seattle’s 2-0 home win was their first ever in the CCL group stages, but Marathón won 2-1 in San Pedro Sula and finish above the Sounders, who lost five of their six group games.
Though El Monstruo Verde (the Green Monster) do not boast too many names familiar to MLS fans, one recognizable last name is that of striker Jerry Palacios, brother of Stoke City midfielder Wilson Palacios, with whom he and other brother Johnny represented Honduras at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Palacios will be one of the focal points in attack, while veteran defender Mauricio Sabillón, a transfer target for the New York Red Bulls prior to the 2011 season, will anchor the defense.
Caledonia AIA: Despite being one of Trinidad and Tobago’s oldest top-flight teams, Caledonia’s trophy cabinet was nearly empty until a few years ago. Boasting a collection of players from around the Caribbean, they qualified for this year’s Champions League by winning their first-ever CFU Club Championship.
A notable alumnus of the club recognizable to MLS fans is the Philadelphia Union’s Keon Daniel, while legendary Soca Warriors midfielder Russell Latapy finished his career there in 2009. One man to watch this time around will be 28-year-old forward Devorn Jorsling, who has collected 16 goals in 29 appearances for the T&T national team and won the 2011 USL Pro title with Orlando City, while Jamal Gay is also on the Sounders radar.
Can they win it all?
Unlikely, but not impossible. The Sounders boast a fearsome attack, and the likes of Mauro Rosales and Fredy Montero could probably get into most, if not every team in CONCACAF, but the consistency, especially on defense is simply not there. They are well-equipped to get into the knockout stages, but it’s hard to see them topping a Mexican team in an offensive battle (see: Santos Laguna series in the last edition). Their best chance would be a series of performances along the lines of that Monterrey win, but right now the team’s defense is not looking the part.