The Seattle Sounders play their third CONCACAF Champions League match tonight in San Jose, Costa Rica, against Deportivo Saprissa. The Sounders sit fourth in Group B, having lost both their previous matches. Monterrey is top with six points, Saprissa second with one win, but having a better goal difference than Marathón, who are third and also have a win.
So we're at 6-3-3-0 with four CCL matches left to go. On top of those four matches, the Sounders have six league matches left to play, one U.S. Open Cup final, and one friendly. That's twelve matches in 39 days. Should Seattle make the MLS playoffs, they'll add four more games to that tally. Even without the playoffs, Seattle will have played 42 competitive matches this season, more than any other club in the MLS.
And, unfortunately, this is not a squad built to withstand 45 matches in one season. While the Sounders have high quality reserves, with the number of injuries the club has seen this season, it seems that half the time we're playing the reserves rather than the first team. This stretches the team, leading to tiredness, leading to more wear and tear. At some point, the team must prioritize its competitions.
Is tonight the night? Do the Sounders punt CCL? The team already was carrying injuries to Blaise Nkufo and James Riley, and Nkufo hasn't even traveled with the team (Edit: incorrect information given; Nkufo traveled). Alvaro Fernandez went home to Uruguay to welcome his new niño into the world. Fredy Montero hasn't had minutes off in...I can't remember how long. Perhaps it's time to surrender. To place greater emphasis on the other competitions. After all, if Seattle wins the Open Cup, or makes it to the final of the MLS Cup, the club will secure a spot in the CCL for the next season. By that time, they will have had more time to prepare, they will be able to add depth, and the squad will have more of an idea of what to expect in international competition.
On the other hand, there is no better way to gain experience in these international competitions than to continue playing our best XI. These are the players we want to be taking the field again next year, and so they should be gaining all they can from this tournament. In addition, the Sounders haven't yet found themselves out of the running for the next round of the CCL. I have serious doubts that Monterrey will lose. If they take all 18 points possible, that leaves second place in the group open. Should Monterrey beat Marathón, and the Sounders beat Saprissa, the table then becomes 9-3-3-3.
So if Seattle has a possibility of winning the match in Costa Rica, now is not the time to punt the CCL. While it's difficult to beat a team on the road in this competition, it's not impossible. Saprissa are beatable, but you shouldn't take my word on it-read Aaron Campeau's scouting report on Sounder at Heart. Prior to reading this, I was ready to call in tonight's match. Now, I say the Sounders should field the best team possible and try to find a win. If it doesn't happen, then it's time to set aside the CCL. But first, let's give it one more shot.