Finally Seattle Sounders soccer is here. The Sounders kick off 2016 against Club America tonight in the CCL quarterfinals in Sodo.
Finally a game that means something, not a swim meet in L.A., or a kick-about in Tucson. This one is at home and matters.
Sure, I’d love to knock off America and make a run in CCL this year (especially considering we’re out of CCL, again, this season), but this is super a tough matchup. America is good. Scary good.
Surviving our difficult draw in the Group Stage got us seeded 8th and thus going against the Bullies of North America. America is a team that just two months ago played in the Club World Cup. Luckily America is off to a rocky start in league play, going 3-3-1, with injuries and suspensions.
Sigi is going into this matchup clear-eyed, saying, “The most important thing for sure is to keep a clean sheet. If we can go down there not having given up an away goal here I think that’s important for our team.” Play to win, but play for a clean sheet above all. Against a team as dynamic and experienced as America, this is sound logic.
Sigi’s been lambasted for this seemingly cynical tactic before, as his record in two-legged series might indicate, but let’s be honest. We are the 8 seed, they are the 1. They are 7 games in and we are playing our first with a wildly turned-over roster. Minimizing goals scored, especially away-goals, is key.
This game is still an opportunity for the Sounders to learn to play together. If this was our first match of 2015, where we returned 10 of 11 starters (and Mears for Yedlin wasn’t exactly a step down in quality) to a Supporters’ Shield-winning side, I’d be hung-ho for taking the game to America.
But 2016 sees a whole new team in Rave Green: 50% turnover in the starting field players and a new formation that, due to Oba’s sudden departure, is still congealing.
BOLD PREDICTION: America takes it easy in leg one. Their recent red cards allow Peralta and Qunitero to play ‘cause they can’t go this weekend, but with injuries and a mediocre start to their season, I don’t see a crazy push by America to travel a tough squad 2800 miles for Tuesday-nighter in the Northwest. America respects this competition and expects to advance, but they’ll look forward to a big win at home.
Seattle should select a top-choice lineup, if only to better integrate the players. A+ lineups are not a given in the CCL knockout round, as Sigi has fielded some odd rosters before. Remember Shalrie Joseph, Alex Caskey and Sammy Ochoa starting against Santos in 2013? Unfortunately I do.
Seattle will score goals. Deuce, JMo-Smooth, Valdez and Ivanschitz have the Hydra roaring, but defense is key in this matchup and we fall short. Miscommunications from a team still gelling allow America to take one home. Sounders 2-1.