Mexican club CF Monterrey are in Seattle tonight, getting ready to take on the Sounders in the clubs' second match of Group C in the CONCACAF Champions League. Monterrey are the current holders of the Apertura title in La Primera División, but missed out on the CCL completely last year.
The Sounders are coming off a dispiriting loss to Marathón, in which their early lead was dismantled by the best international competition the club has seen so far. The 2-1 loss marked the first time the Sounders failed to win in tournament play.
But it's quite difficult, traveling to Central America, playing in front of a hostile crowd, dealing with CONCACAF referee-ing. Tonight CCL play will be at Qwest Field, in front of an estimated crowd of over 20,000 (which, while low for Seattle standards, will likely be one of the biggest tournament crowds the MLS has seen). Will home field advantage be enough to earn Seattle a point, and keep their hopes alive in Group C?
Remember: CONCACAF group play consists of six matches for each club, with both teams playing a home and away leg. The highest number of points possible is 18. In other words, recording a second straight loss wouldn't absolutely crush the Sounders hopes of advancing to the Championship Round. But it would give the Rayandos six points in the group and place a lot of pressure on the Sounders, who would need to pick up points in other hostile environments to move on to the next stage.
Seattle has the tools to win this match. Unlike previous tournament play, the Sounders haven't had a game in six days, and so they are healthy and rested. Steve Zakuani and Patrick Ianni are still covering from knocks, unfortunately. Sanna Nyassi and Alvaro Fernandez will play wide while Osvaldo Alonso and Nathan Sturgis will take the center. Monterrey could easily exploit Sturgis' inability to use the left side of the pitch and Nyassi's inability to do much except run, but if the Sounders can get the ball to Fernandez, Fredy Montero or Blaise Nkufo, offensive chances can certainly be created.
The Sounders will also be missing Tyrone Marshall, who will be sitting on the bench due to an accumulation of yellow cards. Considering the poor form Marshall displayed against Marathón, supporters might do well to consider this a positive rather than a negative. Since Ianni is likely unavailable, Taylor Graham is expected to partner Jeff Parke in the middle.
For more information (including who Monterrey will roll out) visit Sounder at Heart.