SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras – A lot can change in 25 months in the world of soccer.
On August 19, 2010, the Sounders FC met Marathon in Seattle’s first CONCACAF Champions League group stage match after getting past Metapan from El Salvador in the preliminary round. Since then, the Sounders have played in some of the most difficult club stadiums in CONCACAF, meeting Mexico’s Monterrey and Santos Laguna and Saprissa from Costa Rica head-on in their first two efforts in the Champions League.
Along the way, they have played a total of 20 matches in the Champions League and are a much more road-tested group. They are also poised to clinch advancement to the quarterfinals if they can top Marathon at Estadio Olimpico in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on Wednesday night in the third of four matches in the group stage.
“There’s a big difference in our experience level. With few exceptions, almost everybody on our team has played in a CONCACAF game and played in a CONCACAF game on the road,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “If we take care of business and play with the composure that we’ve gained over those games, we’ll be alright.”
Only two players remain from the Marathon side that the Sounders faced on their last trip to San Pedro Sula. Even the Sounders side is vastly different, with only six of the 14 players that appeared in that match still in Rave Green.
The two teams that meet may be far different on the roster card, but Schmid expects to see a similar gameplan from Marathon head coach Manuel Keosseian.
That style has been effective in Honduras. Marathon has won the top league in Honduras nine times and is in the Champions League for the fourth time in the last five years, missing out on the tournament last year.
“They’re a good, solid team,” Schmid said. “The coach is the same coach they had in 2010. He was gone for the beginning of last year, but then came back, so they’re pretty similar in their playing style.”
The Sounders, meanwhile, will be without Christian Tiffert and Mauro Rosales as both rest injuries back home in Seattle as they prepare for a league match against the San Jose Earthquakes at CenturyLink Field on Saturday.
That balance between mid-week Champions League matches and MLS matches is nothing new for the Sounders, though, in their third consecutive season competing in the regional tournament.
Although Tiffert and Rosales won’t be available in the midfield, Mario Martinez certainly will. The 23-year-old midfielder was in San Pedro Sula just last week playing with the Honduras National Team against Cuba in 2014 World Cup qualifying matches and played six seasons with Real Espana, Marathon’s chief rival.
“Mario will be the star and will be the focus. The other guys can just concentrate on the game and let Mario do all the press interviews,” laughed Schmid.
That focus can instead be placed on advancement to the quarterfinals. The Sounders started off the tournament 2-0-0 with a pair of 3-1 wins over Caledonia from Trinidad, easing their road to the quarterfinals over the final two matches, as Marathon managed a draw in their only match against Caledonia.
A win for Seattle on Wednesday would render the result in the Sounders FC’s final match of the group stage at CenturyLink Field on October 24.
“A tie would be good. A win would put it to rest and that’s what we want to do,” said defender Patrick Ianni. “We don’t want that game at the end of the season to mean anything.”
Kickoff is slated for 7 pm Pacific Time with television coverage on Fox Soccer. There will be no radio broadcast, but there will be a live blog of the match at SoundersFC.com.