On their Facebook fan page, Seattle Sounders FC have over 250,000 “likes.” On the other hand, their Thursday opponent, Caledonia AIA have 36.
Sounders midfielder/forward David Estrada played a big part in the quarterfinals of last season’s Champions League, but with Estrada still out with a broken foot who will step up now?
The Sounders will open up their 2012 CONCACAF Campions League campaign against the Trinidad and Tobago side in front of their home fans at 7 p.m. at CenturyLink Field. This is the fourth season in a row that the Sounders have been a part of the North and Central American club tournament and hope to get further than the quarterfinal mark they reached last time around.
In previewing this match, one thing turned out to be not only difficult for us fans, but the Sounders staff and players as well — finding out who this island team is.
There are a few Youtube videos and a couple T&T soccer bloggers, but even Trinidad native Cordell Cato couldn’t relay much information to his teammates in Rave Green.
So, for all intensive purposes we will not look at how to beat the game that Caledonia plays, but how the Sounders can play to get an opening win.
With the new Champions League format, it is more important to ever to get all six points at home, and get at least three road points. That’s right, to be comfortable, the Sounders need to win three of their four matches. And as daunting of a task as that sounds, this is where Seattle’s depth makes them one of the best teams in the tournament.
From all reports about Caledonia, they have to big, strong center backs and a plethora of speed and athleticism — picture a less known Vancouver side. The good news for Seattle is that they know how to counter that style of play with quick ball movement and consistent off-ball runs.
With an opening three points so important, expect coach Sigi Schmid to feature a near-full-strenght roster with Fredy Montero and Eddie Johnson partnering up top. Montero and Johnson both bring pace and one-on-one ability which should allow them to slip by the big center backs on numerous occasions. This room will allow midfielders Mauro Rosales and Cordell Cato to burn up the wings and either Brad Evans or Andy Rose to control the center of the field.
Another part of Caledonia’s game that may play into Seattle’s hands is their inexperience. In high-intensity, fast matches, young sides tend to act a tad more rash than usual which may lead to a couple of late challenges and ultimately a red card.
Even though not many people know what to expect out of the island visitors tomorrow, it is expected that it will be Seattle’s match to lose — and in this situation a draw would also be considered a loss. The Sounders will also play Caledonia AIA in their second group match down in Trinidad August 30, another match that they should be favored to win before heading into the home-and-home with Honduran side Marathon to possibly decide which club will advance to the quarterfinals.
Tomorrow’s match kicks-off at 7 p.m. and can be viewed on Fox Soccer Channel.
Projected Starting XI against Caledonia AIA —
GK, Michael Gspurning
CB, Jeff Parke CB, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado
RB, Adam Johansson LB, Leo Gonzalez
CDM, Osvaldo Alonso
RM, Mauro Rosales LM, Cordell Cato
CAM, Andy Rose
FW, Fredy Montero FW, Eddie Johnson
In Other News
• Seattle Sounders FC have officially announced the loan of Honduran midfielder Mario Martinez from Real Espana. The terms of the deal were not disclosed but it is rumored to be a one-year loan with an option for the Sounders to buy. Martinez will join the team pending the receipt of his P1 Visa and after he has concluded his international duties as his Honduras side has advanced to the quarterfinals of some tournament in London.
• Newly signed German midfielder Christian Tiffert has arrived in Seattle and trained with the team for two days now. Tiffert has been described by Schmid as a “simple, one or two pass player” who will be able to play on either wing or in the middle for the club. Tiffert is not elegable for competition yet as the Sounders are still waiting for his P1 Visa to clear. Tiffert has also be given the number 13.
• Two of five MLS clubs have completed their first Champions League match with Real Salt Lake losing 1-0 on the road to Herediano in Costa Rica last night, and Toronto FC continuing their strong non-MLS performance defeating El Salvadorian side CD Aguila 5-1 in Toronto.