Tuesday's Champions League match against Santos Laguna may be the biggest in club history and they'll have a local legend manning the nets when Marcus Hahnemann starts at goalkeeper.
The Sounders have a pretty sizable match ahead of them on Tuesday when they meet Santos Laguna at CenturyLink Field in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann summed up just how important the CONCACAF Champions League Semifinals are for the Sounders, who will play the second leg of the series April 9 at Estadio Nueva Corona in Torreon, Mexico.
“It’s about winning trophies,” Hahnemann said. “No matter what. That’s what it’s about. If you lose in the Open Cup, they say it doesn’t matter. But if you win the Open Cup … it is unbelievable. The same thing happens with CONCACAF. That’s our goal. We want to win trophies. And to do that, we’ve got to get a good result on Tuesday.”
Tuesday’s match opens a two-game, aggregate-goal series as the Sounders look to become just the second MLS team to reach the Champions League final. And with Michael Gspurning serving a one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation after picking up his second caution of the tournament in the second leg of Seattle’s 3-2 series win over Tigres UANL in the quarterfinal series, Hahnemann will take over the starting role for this first time this year.
The Champions League tournament provides a different type of challenge for the Sounders, as they play midweek games against the top teams in Mexico while also maintaining their MLS regular season schedule. They have had a bit of a reprieve as the league rescheduled their April 7 match against Chivas USA, moving it to September 4.
The Sounders, who are 0-2-1 in MLS play, are not too displeased to endure the Champions League rigor, though.
“Sometimes it’s hard to change from one tournament to league games and back again. You have a lot of midweek games and sometimes it’s a huge distraction. Sometimes it can be a nice distraction from the league though,” said Hahnemann, whose only other match for the Sounders FC came in a 3-1 win in the Group Stage against CD Marathon from Honduras. “We haven’t been doing very well and there’s no hiding that fact. We’re all disappointed, just as our fans are. But we have this other positive thing to look at. A good result there can really kind of kick us on in the league.”
A Seattle native and Seattle Pacific University product, Hahnemann has a chance to help make history for the Sounders – the same team he started his professional career with in 1994, winning the A-League title in 1995 and 1996, then leaving for MLS with the Colorado Rapids for two-and-a-half seasons before spending 13 years in England with Fulham, Rochdale, Reading, Wolverhampton and Everton.
Returning to Seattle, this time with the Sounders FC in MLS, Hahnemann is motivated not only by his love for playing, but also by the opportunity to play in front of family and friends at CenturyLink Field.
“It’s the hometown team. I’m going to keep doing it as long as I can,” said Hahnemann, 40. “As long as I’m having fun, why would I do anything else?”
Kickoff for the first leg of the semifinal series is scheduled for 7 pm PT. Tickets are available by phone at 800-745-3000 or www.SoundersFC.com.