TUCSON, Ariz. – It may just be a scrimmage against a Mexican second-division opponent, but the Seattle Sounders are treating Friday’s friendly with Veracruz as a dress rehearsal for their CONCACAF Champions League trip to face Tigres UANL on March 6.
“The rhythm and pace of the [Mexican] game is a little bit different,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid explained to reporters on Thursday. “[The goal is] for them to get a feel of the pace of the game and the rhythm of the game to play against a team that plays in that sort of tempo.”
With that in mind, Schmid says he’ll use a mostly first-choice starting XI on Friday against los Tiburones Rojos, including Eddie Johnson, who has been limited in training after sliding on a wet piece of grass on Tuesday.
That means Saturday’s Desert Diamond Cup final against Real Salt Lake will likely see a repeat of the substitute-laden starting lineup Schmid trotted out against New York on Wednesday.
There’s a big difference between Veracruz and Tigres, of course. Friday’s opponent is in fourth place in the second-division Ascenso MX while Monterrey-based Tigres are unbeaten after seven games in the Liga MX.
Still, Schmid hopes what they see Friday night will help them re-learn the lessons of last year at the same stage of the CCL quarterfinals. After winning the first leg against Santos Laguna 2-1 at CenturyLink Field, they went down to Torreón, Mexico, for the second leg a week later and were pummeled 6-1.
“We have to play a little more close to the vest, a little more conservatively,” Schmid said. “We got countered out a little bit and that hurt us, but I think we’ll do better this time.”
Newly signed Shalrie Joseph likely will not feature on Friday, Schmid added, as the four-time MLS Best XI selection is still battling calf tightness.