For years, Liga MX teams have dominated MLS foes. It hasn’t been much of a secret that, when it comes to regional dominance, Mexico rules the land.
With the influx of money coming into the league and with an increased priority on CONCACAF Champions League play, MLS teams are expected to push Liga MX sides like never before in 2018. And, with that in mind, the Seattle Sounders see no reason why they can’t be at the forefront of the league’s charge.
On Wednesday, the Sounders will have their chance to take down a Liga MX foe when they host Chivas de Guadalajara at CenturyLink Field. Over two legs, the reigning MLS Cup runners up will have a chance to knock off a Mexican side for the second time in club history after only a 2013 triumph over Tigres.
“We’ve had some success. We beat Monterrey down there,” head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “We had some tough games against Santos Laguna. The Tigres series was memorable because of Djimi Traore’s goal. We’ve had some success, but we like to challenge for trophies and measure ourselves against some of the best teams in the region.
“MLS, nationally and internationally, people still might say, ‘OK, it’s MLS still,’” added Brian Schmetzer. “There’s still that little bit of weight that’s holding us down a bit. Until a team from our league finally breaks through, there will always be that, ‘Well, maybe MLS isn’t quite there yet.’ It’s important on all three fronts.”
The good news? The Sounders are facing a Chivas team that is very much not in form. Through 10 games, Chivas sits 16th in the Liga MX table with just one win and eight points.
Still, the Mexican side is a formidable foe. Chivas cruised past Dominican side Cibao with seven goals over two legs in the most lopsided Round of 16 clash. With players like star forward Alan Pulido leading the line, the Sounders will have their hands full at home on Wednesday.
“Offensively, we have to make them defend,” said midfielder Cristian Roldan. “They’re away from home, they have to feel that they are away from home. Sometimes Mexican sides come in and play just as well as if they were in Mexico. They have to feel like they’re in Seattle and we’re going to take the game to them.
“We have to manage their players. They have quality players in the middle and on the wings. Really condense the inside and let them play out wide and win our individual battles. We’re at home. At the end of the day, if we win our duels and if we are ready to compete, it’s a game we can win.”
The Sounders will need to overcome several injuries if they are to pick up that series-opening home win. The Jordan Morris injury will loom large over the rest of the season, but the absences of Ozzie Alonso and Kelvin Leerdam will leave the team a bit shorthanded on Wednesday night.
However, much of the first team is rested following the weekend’s loss to expansion LAFC, including Clint Dempsey, who did not feature in the match.
The Sounders will need Dempsey, Roldan and co. to be at their best on Wednesday as the club looks to push on towards a big result and the respect that comes with it.
“You don’t get these opportunities that often to play against Mexican teams,” said defender Chad Marshall. “That’s what MLS is striving to be. They want to be on par or better than the Mexican league, so these games are important for the league and for the club to prove themselves of where they stand in that hierarchy. We look forward to it, it’s a good challenge.”
“Somebody’s gotta win it,” Schmetzer said. “We have to win it to be legit.”