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Sounders facing Champions League decision

Kasey Keller (

Photo by Michael Pimental/  


The Seattle Sounders are in Costa Rica for their CONCACAF Champions League group match against Deportivo Saprissa tonight, and if the Sounders don't win, they might as well stop trying to advance out of the group.

The Sounders have lost their first two CCL matches and have four remaining including tonight. They're stuck on zero points, while Monterrey leads with six and Saprissa and C.D. Marathon have three each. Another loss, and Seattle will need something close to a miracle to advance.

It's been proven difficult for an MLS team to win on the road in CCL play, and the Sounders' prospects look grim. The current part of the team's schedule is a grind that will test its depth, and this week, the Sounders went from Seattle to Costa Rica, then have to go from there to Columbus for its MLS regular-season match against the top team in the Eastern Conference, the Columbus Crew.

It's hard to imagine coach Sigi Schmid fielding his best lineup for the Saprissa game, seeing as the Sounders are in a fight for a low playoff spot and need healthy and rested key players for the Columbus match and other MLS matches thereafter. Defender James Riley is still out with an ankle injury. So it might be time to throw in the towel in CCL play and just play out the string.

If it doesn't happen tonight, expect the Sounders' bench to see some time in upcoming CCL games if Seattle fails to gain at least a point in Costa Rica. That would include young guys like Michael Seamon, David Estrada, Mike Fucito and Miguel Montano and seldom-used players like Tyson Wahl and backup goalkeeper Terry Boss. Giving the kids a taste of international play, or just game action period, certainly can't hurt.  

Seamon has shown some flashes of good play, as has Montano. Fucito is an instant sparkplug of energy and effort when he gets his chance. Estrada has been hurt and his time limited, but at some point he has to justify his being selected in the first round.

Also, the Sounders want to have their top players in good form when the U.S. Open Cup championship game rolls around next month. Are CCL matches more important than a chance at another trophy for the headquarters? An educated guess would be no.

Clearly the Open Cup final means a lot to the fans. The club announced Monday that advance ticket sales had surpassed 22,000, meaning that there will be a record crowd for the final at Qwest Field on Oct. 5. The previous record attendance was 21,583 in 1929.

The Sounders probably want to be put forth a respectable showing in CCL. But not at the expense of things that are of higher priority. With one more CCL road game after the Saprissa match, at least they'll have had the experience of so much travel for games for future reference.


  1. Losing away to a team such a Saprissa will go along way in building character if SSFC players find themselves in a similar spot next year.

  2. At this point I’d rather mls teams focus in the us open and the supporters sheild/playoffs. CCL just isn’t realistic with payroll limitations/roster size. Which is fine, it’s where the league is at. But since the CCL isn’t going away, I agree with the thinking that maybe the younger guys should play these games. At least until Concacaf invests into proper officiating and MLS squads have the type of bench that can support multiple leagues. I really don’t mind seeing coaches leave some of their top players home for these away matches.

  3. I have to disagree with you. Not sure how having the 25th (and lower) best player on the team is going to help them win this or against MLS competition.

    They need to play their best players to have a chance. These teams are pretty good.

  4. Yeah, it is a conundrum. And Seattle suffers a little more because the flights are sooo damn long to Central America from the Pacific NW.

    I have no doubt that if Sounders had won the 1st game, they’d be going all out tonight. I think they’ll field a representative squad tonight but hold back a couple of key guys.

    Many before have said this but if MLS wants their teams to take this seriously they simply have to give teams the ability to compete. A reserve team or expanded rosters for international competitions, something.

    The same 22-24 guys minus injuries and fatigue, simply gives coaches too few options.

  5. They should try to win this game, however if they do lose then it’s probably best to just go after the playoff spot and the Open cup (which would put them back in CCL)

  6. They should focus on trying to win the Open Cup, so they can gain entry into a prestigious tournament like the Champions League next year…wait a minute…

  7. As Sigi has said, They rather play Matches than inter-squad Scrimages to keep match fit. While player health is always an issue, I still expect (for now) that Sigi fields a respectable line-up.

  8. Sounders should already be letting the young guys play in this game. The fact is that after 0 points though 2 games, including a home game, Seattle has almost no chance of getting through the group stage.

    Meanwhile they are sitting 8th in the MLS playoff race and still have the US Open Cup final to look forward to. They would be smart to focus their efforts on these competitions given the small roster sizes of MLS.

  9. Please win. None of us want to be sitting in an empty stadium for the remaining two (meaningless ) games at home.

    I don’t understand how the players would put up with, ” we are not going to play you, so you are rested for Sat”. If I am a starter, I am not sitting for a game that mean something. Ever. The US Open tennis guys can play the next day, but I can’t be ready to play again in 4 days ?

    I will be a little miffed if the Sounders don’t try to win tonight. It is what management promised when I signed up for season tickets, try to win the Club World Cup.

    IF they lose tonight maybe a little different story at 0-3.

  10. Experience tells, Sounders don’t have many chances against Saprissa no matter what players they put on the field. And resting their better players may help them short-term in MLS. But in the long run, impotence of MLS clubs in CCL devalues the clubs themselves and MLS as a whole.
    There is no easy way to become a respectable league. MLS clubs should make official international games a priority, do their best, take losses, get experience. Avoiding stronger competition brings no progress and no respect.


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