Tonight the Seattle Sounders play their second game of the CONCACAF Champions League Group F against CD Olimpia.
Olimpia is the Yankees of Honduras. Last season, they won the Honduran LigaNacional Clasura title and the Copa Presidente (the recently reintroduced Honduran equivalent of the Open Cup). Olimpia is over 100 years old and the most decorated team in Honduras. They are a proud franchise (lion joke!).
Group F is the CCL’s “Group of Death”. Most CCL groups feature at least one lightweight, if not two. Look at the other MLS teams’ groups: L.A plays two against Trinidad and Tobago’s Central (a 3 year-old side making their first CCL); D.C. plays against Jamaica’s Montego Bay (another debutante side that only qualified by taking 3rd place in the Caribbean Club Championship.) Not Group F.
Seattle and Olimpia are CCL elite. They both regularly make the Group Stage and have both advanced to the knockout stage multiple times in the current format. The ‘Caps are the debutante to the ball, but they are on such a tear in MLS that they must be reckoned with. Seattle will not have an easy time advancing from this group. In fact, Lamar Neagle’s equalizer at BC Place may be the most important, but forgotten, goal during Seattle’s recent slide. Earning that result on the road was huge.
So what should we expect tonight? Oddly despite their pedigree, Olimpia is currently stinking up the Honduran table. The LigaNacional has just started up and Olimpia’s lost their first 3 games with a -5 goal differential. The Sounders, of course, are also a proud franchise who’s hit the skids as of late, but maybe Seattle can catch a squad still shaking off the early-season rust.
BOLD PREDICTION: It will be an interesting game, as both teams will probably field B lineups featuring backups and subs. The Sounders, of course, are fixture-swamped in August and probably look forward to resting guys. This may mean that recent regulars like Pineda and Roldan see significant time.
However Sigi may want to ice these 3 points at home. Starting a killer lineup tonight and waxing Olimpia give us leeway in the rematch down in Tegucigalpa. Seattle, as you remember, has to fly down to Honduras four days before a big Western 6-pointer, Cascadian blood derby against Portland.
Goal differential is the first tiebreaker in the Group Stage (look at L.A.’s result from last night). The Sounders are incentivized to pound CCL opponents at home. I am thinking Olimpia is rough from travel and still rusty, and Sigi, smelling blood and a plus goal-differential, fields a strongish lineup dotted with stars: 3-1 Sounders.