Eye of the Tigres — CONCACAF Preview

Can David Estrada and Brad Evans re-create their goal scoring magic that gave Seattle the 2-1 first leg win against Santos Laguna last season?

After a lack-luster MLS opener loss to Montreal, it’s onto what may be the most important competition of the season for Seattle Sounders FC — CONCACAF Champions League.

As you may remember, the Sounders advanced with ease through their group stage to get to the quarterfinals, but that took place some six months ago with a squad containing Fredy Montero and Jeff Parke. Now the current Sounders are not only trying to fill the gap those two left, but enter today’s quarterfinal match against the best team in Mexico, and therefore the region, Tigres UANL in Monterrey.

This match though is a reverse of last season’s quarterfinal against Santos Laguna, as now Seattle will play the second leg at home (March 12) as the higher seed. With that said, the word of the day kids is — Bunker.

Seattle will return both Ozzie Alonso and Marc Burch tonight after missing the Montreal match from their dumb-ass suspensions last season, and although only Alonso will start of the two, I actually expect to see Burch come in. The reasoning for that is Seattle will be playing for the draw tonight, or at worst, a one goal loss. Anything more than that leaves a mountain to climb back in Seattle. CONCACAF also counts away goals as the first tie-breaker, so if the Sounders aren’t able to get a victory in Mexico (best case scenario), then a 1-1 or 2-2 draw would be the next best thing.

Tigres is also without their leading scorer in the Liga MX, Emanuel Villa, who suffered a calf injury and will be out a month, missing both legs against the Sounders. Villa has scored 8 goals in Tigres’ 9 MX matches this season to lead the team and league. Tigres is also in great form, going 6-3-0 and not losing a match so far this Primera season. Recently though, Tigres has drawn their last three home matches, and without Villa, the Sounders may be able to get that draw they’re looking for.

As far as Seattle’s form, I really would;t take too much away from Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Montreal. Seattle was far too susceptible to the counter-attack without Alonso, and Montreal bunkered defensively most of the match, which Tigres sure as hell won’t do. The addition of Ozzie is key into this one, along with trying to keep a little possession.

Scouting Report — Here’s a look at tonight’s match from the fine people at MLSSoccer.com

Projected Starting XI —

GK – Michael Gspurning
CB – Djimi Traore             CB – Jhon Kennedy Hurtado
RB – DeAndre Yedlin                      LB – Leo Gonzalez
CDM – Ozzie Alonso
RM – Mauro Rosales                 LM – Steve Zakuani
CAM – Brad Evans
FW – Johnson           FW – Mario Martinez
BENCH USED — David Estrada (Martinez), Marc Burch (Zakuani)

Both Traore and Estrada were not featured in Saturday’s match due to injury and recovery, but both did make the trip and should be ready to go tonight. Estrada was dealing with an ankle injury so his appearance may be less likely, which could mean a Sammy Ochoa sub. In other injury news, Shalrie Joseph is still getting his fitness up to snuff and didn’t travel.

Where to watch — This one, like all CONCACAF Champions League matches at this stage can been seen exclusively on Fox Sports Network at 7 p.m. I’m not sure if ROOT Sports will have a replay, but my guess would be not, so if you don’t have the channel just get to a pub or check out Sounder at Heart’s viewing party.

Final Notes and Prediction — This is the best club the Sounders will face all season, even though they worked hard to get the No. 3 seed for this tournament, luck just didn’t go their way with the draw. I’m being optimistic and hoping for a 2-1 loss, but I could see 3-0 or 3-1. In case you missed it, rookie right back DeAndre Yedlin was named MLS Best XI from week one, a well deserved honor which may mean bye-bye to Adam Johnasson. Finally, the Sounders will break last season’s mold and not wear their Super Cyan kits for tonight’s non-MLS match (Hallelujah), and instead wear the badass new Cascade Shale kits that where just released while Tigres will wear their home blue and gold.

Maybe the power of the new Cascade Shale will get the Sounders of the mountain in Monterrey.