SEATTLE — Nothing short of making history will be enough to send the Seattle Sounders through to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals.
Not only will the Sounders have to become the first MLS team to eliminate a Mexican opponent from the four-year-old competition, but they’ll likely need to beat Tigres UANL by at least two goals on Tuesday in order to do it (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer). Tigres hold a 1-0 aggregate-goal lead, and would own the tiebreaker if they score a road goal.
Although MLS teams have gone 3-1-2 against Mexican teams at home in the knockout rounds, they’ve never won by more than one goal. Real Salt Lake are the only MLS team to beat a Mexican opponent by two goals in any stage of the competition, beating Cruz Azul 3-1 in the 2010 group stage.
The Sounders are doing their best not to put it in such grandiose terms, though.
“It’s something that gets mentioned,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “But it’s not something we lay our whole preparation around. I think they know. It’s important for us as a league. It’s been a while since a US team has won this tournament [the last was Schmid’s LA Galaxy in 2000]; obviously [a US team] has never won this tournament under the new format. It’s just a matter of us trying to get one step further.”
While no one is under the impression the gap is anywhere near gone – regardless of this result – the Sounders know this is a potential feather in their cap.
“It has been a slow progress to get that recognition,” said Sounders forward David Estrada. “The past few years I think American teams have gone down there and proven themselves. We saw what Houston did [in the first leg of their quarterfinal against Santos Laguna], and hopefully they can do a little bit better than we did last year at Santos. But I think it’s growing and I think we’re going to have a good chance on Tuesday.”
The Sounders’ task appears to have gotten a little easier as well. In a bit of a change from recent decisions, Tigres coach Ricardo Ferretti has elected to leave virtually all his starters in Mexico to focus on league play.
The Sounders are just fine with that.
“I don’t care who they send,” Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer said. “That’s their issue, not mine. We played effectively a reserve team in Monterrey two years ago and came out with a win, and I’m not sure they cared who we sent. So what we want to do is win by two goals and not give up a goal. Whoever they put on the field is their issue.”