Sounders FC vs. Tigres UANL
March 6, 7 pm PT, Estadio Universitario
TV/Radio: Fox Soccer/None
Tigres UANL’s Record: 6-0-3 in 2013 Clausura; 2-0-2 in 2012 CCL Group Stage; 5-6-6 in 2012 Apertura.
The Sounders FC has consistently been competitive in every competition they enter, whether it is MLS play, the playoffs, the US Open Cup or CONCACAF Champions League. Yet each competition is its own separate beast.
On Wednesday, the Sounders will meet Tigres in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League in the first match of a two-leg series that concludes on March 12 at CenturyLink Field as Seattle looks to advance to the semifinals for the first time in club history.
Here are four things to know about the series.
Winning in Mexico is No Easy Task
Only two MLS clubs have ever gone to Mexico and topped a top-flight club from Mexico on their own soil. In 2011, both FC Dallas and the Sounders FC accomplished it one week apart in the group stage of the Champions League.
In three matches in Mexico, the Sounders are 1-2-0, playing twice against Monterrey and once against Santos Laguna. They were competitive in all three matches until falling apart in the second half against Santos Laguna in the quarterfinals of last year’s tournament.
Those experiences have the Sounders coming in to Estadio Universitario well aware of what they’re up against.
“You’ve got to respect these teams when you come down,” defender Marc Burch said. “They’re good, physical, quick, fast-moving, up-tempo teams. You’ve got to always follow your runners.”
A win isn’t the only thing
The Sounders make a point to approach every match with an eye on victory.
In league play, that is helpful because points count the same whether they are earned at home or on the road. However, the nature of a two-leg aggregate-goal series is different, so sometimes a different approach is needed. Last year against Santos Laguna, the Sounders went in needing a win, draw or one-goal loss to advance, but once Santos earned a two-goal lead Seattle found themelves chasing the game. That won’t be the case on Wednesday, though, as the first leg of the series allows the Sounders more freedoms.
“Our goal tomorrow night is to get a result that puts us in position to win this thing in Seattle,” head coach Sigi Schmid said. “Is that a win? Yeah, that’d be brilliant. Is that a tie? That would work. Is it maybe a loss that’s very close? That works too.”
An American star
Tigres will be without their top scorer, as forward Emanuel Villa is out with an injury. But they will undoubtedly find someone to fill that role and they also have a midfielder that brings confidence to the group, with our without Villa. That playmaker is US National Team midfielder Jose Francisco Torres, who plays the bulk of the minutes in the midfield for Tigres.
Although he doesn’t have the statistics that Lucas Lobos has (five goals and four assists in nine matches), Torres is a key figure that the Sounders will have to keep an eye on.
“He’s a good passer of the ball and he’s played well for them. I think they’ve been very happy with him,” Schmid said.
Tigres features another US National Teamer in defender Jonathan Bornstein, though a lack of playing time with Tigres has also limited his international appearances.
It’s a battle of 180 minutes
The beauty of the aggregate-goal series is that it is played out over the entire 180 minutes. However, just as it can be beneficial to be patient, knowing that it’s a long series, that doesn’t allow for early complacence. A mistake in the second minute can easily come back to haunt a team in the 180th minute. That’s why the Sounders will have to come out of the gates ready to play on Wednesday.
“Everybody needs to be motivated to play,” captain Mauro Rosales said. “Everything you can have here is motivation to do our job and represent the Seattle Sounders the best we can.”