In last year’s edition of the CONCACAF Champions League, the Sounders FC quickly found themselves in a hole after a 2-1 loss to CD Marathon in Honduras.
Though they got out to a 1-0 lead on the heels of a Roger Levesque goal in the 17th minute, they trailed 2-1 by halftime and couldn’t find the equalizer and fell to a team they probably should have beaten.
By the time they were finally able to get a win on the board, they were all but eliminated from contention to advance in the tournament.
This time around, they hope to jump fast out of the gates when they host Comunicaciones from Guatemala in the first match of the group stage.
“If you look back at last year, we lost a couple games away first and it was difficult. The games up here are crucial,” defender Jeff Parke said. “We need the points.”
The Sounders will play Comunicaciones, Monterrey of Mexico and Herediano of Costa Rica each home and away. The two teams with the best records will advance to the quarterfinals, which begin in March of 2012.
In Monterrey, they face the defending CONCACAF champions and Herediano is one of the top teams in a very difficult Costa Rican league. However, Seattle can’t look past their opponent on Tuesday.
Winners of the 2010 Apertura and 2011 Clausura championships in Guatemala, Comunicaciones is no slouch opponent.
“They’re a pretty active, pretty energetic team,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “They’ve got some good team speed. Having seen they play a few years ago they seem to definitely be an improved team, a lot of energy and they play with a lot of desire. They have some skillful players. It should be a good game, an exciting game.”
Although their information about Comunicaciones is much more limited than their MLS opponents, the Sounders are a year wiser when it comes to Champions League play and the rigors the travel can bring. That knowledge also brings a savvy understanding of the importance to a strong start.
“We don’t really know what to expect, but we’ve been through it and we have a better idea. If we go out there and play the way we can, especially at home, we should be able to get a good result,” forward Nate Jaqua said. “We didn’t rebound as well as we should have until the very end and then it was a little too late.”
The Sounders won’t have Osvaldo Alonso available after the league’s leading tackler picked up two yellow cards in the preliminary round against San Francisco FC of Panama.
However, they will likely have midfielder Brad Evans and defenders Leo Gonzalez and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado available for the match after the early-season starters have not started in eight, seven and four matches, respectively.
“Those guys are starters in my mind so if those guys can come in and replace some guys that gives us some fresh legs there,” Schmid said. “Then we will decide what we are going to do with the other players.”
Kickoff is set for 7 pm on Fox Soccer television and 97.3 KIRO FM radio. The next home match in the tournament will be Seattle’s fourth match of the group stage, September 20 against Herediano.