On Saturday, the Sounders FC opened their 2013 season with a 1-0 loss to the Montreal Impact.
However, team MVP and MLS Best XI midfielder Osvaldo Alonso served a one-game suspension, making Wednesday's CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal match at Tigres the start of his 2013 campaign.
Alonso and defender Marc Burch are both eligible to start their seasons on Wednesday in Monterrey, Mexico, as the Sounders look to take the first step toward being the first MLS team to win CONCACAF Champions League.
Tigres is hardly a soft-landing though as the top team in Liga MX digs in on their home field against the Sounders.
“It’s my first game this year and it’s going to be a tough game for me and for us,” Alonso said after training in Frisco, Texas, on Monday. “It’s a battle.”
Similarly, Burch is ready to take the field at Estadio Universitario for his first match of 2013 if head coach Sigi Schmid opts to use him.
“If my number is called, I’m ready to play,” he said. “Getting a win is the most important thing to start out the season. We didn’t win our first one, so this is the next game. We need to get a win and start the season out right.”
A win would do wonders for the Sounders FC’s chances to reach the semifinal, but isn’t the only result that can leave the Sounders walking out of Monterrey confident that they can get through to the semifinals after the second leg in Seattle on March 12.
A win would also be historic. Only twice has an MLS side earned a victory against a top flight Mexican team on their home soil. The first was when FC Dallas topped Pumas UNAM in 2011 and the Sounders matched the feat one week later against Monterrey, who went on to win their second consecutive CONCACAF Champions League crown. Both of those matches came in the Group Stage of Champions League.
All told, the Sounders are 11-9-2 in Champions League play over three years and they will draw on that experience when they take the field on Wednesday.
“It’s the second time we play in the quarterfinals,” Alonso said. “We have more experience, we have new players and we’re more confident now to play in this type of game.”
That experience also includes three trips to Mexico. In addition to their 1-0 victory over Monterrey, they also took a 2-0 lead into halftime in the 2010 tournament, only to fall 3-2 and last year they dropped a 6-1 result to Santos Laguna in the quarterfinals.
“I think we’ve shown that we can play those teams tough,” Schmid said. “Now we’ve got to go out on Wednesday night with the maturity to play a good game defensively and not get caught up in the enthusiasm of the game—no matter what turn it takes—and not lose by more than we should if we end up losing. We obviously want to win the game. If we can’t win it we want to tie it. If we can’t tie it we only want to lose one-nothing. All those things are important to us and the maturity of the team is stronger over the years, having gone through these kind of series and having played games in Mexico. That’s something that we want to achieve.”
The team travels Tuesday to Monterrey, where they will train in advance of their 7 p.m. PT kickoff on Wednesday.