The Seattle Sounders are in Honduras, preparing to take on Marathón in the CONCACAF Champions League. Seattle is riding a bit of a high at the moment, unbeaten in nine games through all competitions. But can the Sounders continue the MLS's perfect streak in Champions League play by leaving Honduras with a win?
Fredy Montero had his personal streak snapped last week, as he failed to score or assist in the 0-0 draw against Chivas USA, but Montero is still the man of the moment for Seattle. And with no game at the weekend, there's no reason for Seattle to rest their best players, so we can be reasonably confident that Montero will be joining Blaise Nkufo up front, and we'll see Alvaro Fernandez and Osvaldo Alonso in the middle with Jeff Parke and Leo Gonzalez at the back, in front of Kasey Keller.
The question mark occurs on the wing. With Sigi Schmid convinced that Fernandez is a winger (I disagree and think Nate Sturgis could use some time on the bench to contemplate why he can't kick the ball to the left side of the field) we might see Roger Levesque on the other wing tonight, given that Steve Zakuani is injured and Sanna Nyassi is sitting out a suspension due to yellow-card accumulation. I would love to see Miguel Montaño get the start, but I'm sure that Schmid is going with gritty veteran presence.
But will that gritty veteran presence be enough? Not if the team on the pitch resembles the one that took the field last Saturday. That team looked a bit worn, ragged around the edges. Marathón is a team that has won the last three league Aperturas while failing to win the Clausuras (remember, many Latin American leagues separate the year into two seasons). They don't win the Clausuras because they are focused on trying to win the CCL. Although Marathón has lost in the quarterfinals in the past two years, make no mistake: they're a quality side. And they don't lose at home, boasting a 6-0-0 record in the group stages over the past two years.
So will Seattle be able to come away with a point, much less three? This is a team that, at the break, were more or less eliminated from playoff contention--and have roared back into sixth place, finally showcasing their talents. The Sounders need to make sure their linkup play is working tonight. Montero and Fernandez have already formed a great partnership. What was missing last week was a lack of balls being fed to the Uruguayan. If Fernandez has the ball, sliding it in to Nkufo or Montero shouldn't be too much of a hardship. Speaking of Nkufo, he'll need to play further forward to allow Montero space to roam. The defense shouldn't be too much of an issue (knock on wood) as Parke and Patrick Ianni have gelled nicely in the back.
Sounders play tonight at 7pm PT on Fox Soccer Channel.
For more pre-game information, visit Sounder at Heart.
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