In Monterrey, Mexico, the Sounders FC was in the midst of one of the club’s greatest wins in its three-year history.
Like most of the Sounders FC faithful, owner and general manager Adrian Hanauer was back in Seattle, riding the waves of emotion in the confines of his home.
“I was sitting in my house watching the game, jumping up and down, scaring the hell out of the dog,” Hanauer said. “The last ten minutes were excruciating, but it was a very exciting game and a historic win for our franchise and for the league.”
With Alvaro Fernandez scoring in the 38th minute and the defense, backed by Terry Boss, held a very dangerous Monterrey side scoreless for a historic 1-0 win – Seattle’s first road win in CONCACAF Champions League play and just the second time an MLS team has gone into Mexico and came out victorious after FC Dallas became the first to do it one week earlier against UNAM Pumas.
“It’s big. Hopefully it’s a continuation of a process and an objective of our league, which is to be the best league in CONCACAF and one of the best teams in the world,” Hanauer said. “I think it’s a little early to make dramatic conclusions about the tides turning, but I think this has been coming. MLS teams have been playing increasingly more competitively in Mexico and have been beginning to figure out how to solve the code of teams in Mexico. I think we’re far from consistently beating teams in Mexico and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Mexican teams changing tactics a bit and redoubling their efforts because they have been beaten a couple of times.”
Even beyond the historical significance of the win, the three points in the Champions League group stage could prove to be monumental as they continue their quest to reach the quarterfinal stage of the tournament.
Last year, the Sounders won just one match in the group stage, a home match against Marathon from Honduras. They held a 2-0 lead late in the match at Estadio Tecnologico in Monterrey, but Humberto Suazo entered the pitch and changed everything over the course of just a few minutes and Seattle fell 3-2.
Monterrey went on to win the group and the Champions League title.
“We think Monterrey is the best team in Mexico, even though they are not in first place right now. To come into Monterrey and win gives our team confidence as we go into games in the future,” said Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid.
And while Monterrey used a lineup that featured many of their star players – like Suazo, Aldo de Nigris, Neri Cardozo and Luis Ernesto Perez – the Sounders sent Kasey Keller, Fredy Montero, Mauro Rosales and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado to Seattle after a 1-0 win over FC Dallas on Saturday. The lineup on Tuesday featured only two players who started at Pizza Hut Park on Saturday as the Sounders prepare for another in a long line of difficult matches in a stretch of six matches in 18 days.
That series started with a scoreless draw at home against Chivas USA and included a 4-1 win against Comunicaciones of Guatemala in the first match of the Champions League group stage. The final two matches in the sequence come on Saturday when Seattle hosts the Columbus Crew at CenturyLink Field and Tuesday in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup semifinals against FC Dallas at Starfire.
“It continues to show how much depth we have on the team and the importance of depth in our league if you’re going to be playing in multiple competitions,” Hanauer said. “It’s just one huge game after another - six or seven massive games in a row and to be able to play 19 players deep is really valuable in these times.”
The magnitude of the win isn’t lost on the players either after they have gone unbeaten in their last six matches in all competitions as they near the final stages of the MLS regular season and the US Open Cup and inch closer to reaching the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
“It’s tremendous. It’s a great win for us. It’s one that will go in the history for our club. We are now the second team to win in Mexico so for us it’s special,” midfielder Brad Evans said. “Bottom line that’s what championship teams are made of. You win when it’s tough. You win when it’s easy. You win when you’re not supposed to. It’s momentum. It’s the confidence we have in each other no matter who steps on the field.”
Although they are happy with the results and the success they’ve had in the three competitions, they aren’t about to become complacent.
“There’s work to do,” Hanauer said. “You’d have to say our chances to reach our goal of the quarterfinals are good – a lot better than they were at this point last year. We have work ahead of us and we need to keep collecting points. We’re closing in on it, but we need to keep focused and make sure we don’t have any letdowns.”