For a Major League Soccer team, there are few scheduling rigors more trying than away CONCACAF Champions League matches.
Travelling internationally to unfamiliar locales to play often grueling matches in the regional competition could give a team administrator headaches. On Tuesday, the Sounders FC played their last Champions League match for at least another year and now will shift their full attention to the MLS calendar, starting on Saturday against the New England Revolution.
Historically, though, the Sounders have done very well, not only in navigating the waters of Champions League, but also in the matches that follow CCL games. With return travel and short rest always an issue, the Sounders have managed to go 7-2-1 in MLS matches on the weekend following midweek CCL matches, including two blowout wins over the Columbus Crew that saw two of Seattle’s four hat tricks in club history.
“Last year, we were very good about coming out after a Champions League game and winning or getting a result on the weekend, and we have to do the same thing,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said.
Though they were unable to procure the victory on Tuesday needed to advance to the Champions League final, the Sounders were able to make strides in their game that leave players and coaches encouraged as they get back to league play.
For the series against Santos, Seattle completed nearly 80-percent of their passes, taking better care of the ball than most clubs across the MLS schedule over the weekend. They were also dangerous moving forward, outshooting Santos 19-11 in the second leg while putting five shots on goal. They spent much of the match getting into opportunistic positions, but were unable to put the finishing touch on the play.
They had the right mentality on Tuesday, but the final execution kept them from advancing.
“Obviously the progress we’ve had since last year’s competition until now – making the semifinals and almost the final, playing always with the best teams in Mexico – it’s something that we have to be proud of and also learn about everything we did tonight and try to bring this mentality to MLS,” midfielder Mauro Rosales said. “Now we have to focus on this and try to start winning games. I think what we showed today is the same character we have to show Saturday against New England.”
It will take some serious resiliency to bounce back after the disappointing conclusion to Seattle’s efforts at a Champions League title, but it’s an adjustment that the Sounders must make quickly. While no team has played fewer games than the Sounders in MLS play this year, they are also the only winless team in MLS at 0-3-1.
“We know what our position is in league. We’re not stupid. We can read the papers and we can look at the standings,” Schmid said. “The guys are down a little bit because they’re disappointed, but now we’ve got to give our full concentration to the league. It’s not how we start, it’s how we finish. If we show this effort and this character, I think we’ll get the results that we need.”
Saturday’s match against the New England Revolution is scheduled for 1 pm PT at CenturyLink Field.