The time for preparation is over for the Seattle Sounders. Now, the moment has arrived to make a run at immortality.
The hype around Wednesday’s Concacaf Champions League Final at Lumen Field (7:00 p.m. PT; FS1, UniMás, TUDN, 93.3 KJR FM, El Rey 1360AM) is as palpable as any match in club history, given the monumental stakes. Should the Sounders top Liga MX outfit Pumas UNAM in the contest, they’ll be the first-ever MLS team to conquer the CCL summit.
Hosting a match of this magnitude carries its own kind of pressure, as Seattle learned in 2019 when they hosted Toronto FC in MLS Cup. With another record-breaking, capacity crowd set to pack Lumen for the match, Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said that previous experience offers plenty to lean on for his group.
"We addressed in the locker room amongst the players, the players had conversations about it amongst themselves because there is some underlying pressure there being the home team in front of the home crowd," Schmetzer said during Tuesday’s final media availability before matchday. "If you remember the 2019 Final, there were many people said that Toronto took it to us that first half. My viewpoint's a little different but I'm obviously biased.
“But when the first goal came, it was like everybody could relax and we played and jumped to a 3-0 lead. So, yes, that experience is going to help us, yes, we did address it in the build-up and the preparation for this game."
"They say it’s just a game, until it’s so much more." Narrated by Ken Griffey Jr.
With that in mind, midfielder Albert Rusnák said he's expecting the home crowd will give the team a boost once the match starts. Regardless, the Slovakian said his team must be prepared for a Pumas side that they know will be trying to impose their will on the game early.
"I would expect to us to come out on the front foot, especially having the fans on our side, they're going to keep pushing us forward," said Rusnák. "I would imagine a more attacking and more dominant game from us.
“Obviously, we're fully aware of the fact that they're not going to come here and sit on in front of the edge of their box and kick long balls and all that, they will fancy themselves as well, which is something that we're fully aware of," he continued. "But maybe the first few minutes of the game may be a little hectic but at some point, the game is going to slow down, and the game is going to settle and there will be moments of possession for us to try to unlock that defense they played against us in the first game."
While it’s uncharted territory for the club in its first-ever CCL Final, Sounders veteran Fredy Montero said he’s confident the pieces are in place for Seattle to finish the job.
The 34-year-old Colombian, in his second stint with the club, has seen the progression of MLS over the last decade-plus, with this Seattle roster loaded with talent all over the field and featuring multiple key players with big-game international experience to their names.
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On Wednesday, they’ll have a chance to capture their biggest trophy yet.
"If you look at into the details of our squad, I believe a lot of players have that international experience already,” said Montero. “So, looking back at my early years with the Sounders I don’t think we had that many players that already played in Mexico, Europe, or with the US national team.
“That makes a huge difference when you have to play against good teams like we’ve beat against León, against Tigres and now we have the opportunity to play against Pumas in the Final. I believe that we are prepared and all that we did at every stage, it was the foundation to prepare for the franchise for something as big as this. Hopefully we can finish it in this last game at home.”