Leo Gonzalez goes there and back again
CS Herediano is one of those strong teams with a poor recent history. They have 21 titles down in Costa Rica, but their last was from the 1992/3 season. Entering this edition of the CONCACAF Champions League by finishing 2nd Leo Gonzalez former club has a case of dualistic forms. In CCL play they haven't won in three matches, with their only points coming from the Preliminary Round drubbing (10-2 aggregate) against Alpha United of Guyana. Since that two-leg tie they haven't scored.
But in league play a coaching change has seen the club charge up the standings. Now 5-2-2 with a +5 Goal Differential Sigi Schmid sees them as a completely different team and noted it during the conference call Monday.
"I think Herediano is a team that’s a dangerous team right now. It’s a different team than the one that lost to Monterrey and a different team that lost to Comunicaciones. They had a coaching change...It’s a situation where the players are out now for Herediano to prove themselves to a new coach. They’re excited so they’re playing with a newfound enthusiasm, so they’re going to be a very dangerous team"
The Seattle Sounders though will be in a somewhat familiar territory. Herediano's normal stadium will not be used. Instead they will playing at the Costa Rica's national stadium in San Jose. Unlike other situations, this won't place their fans too far out, as the two cities are only about 6 miles apart. Herediano had just over 7,000 against Alpha United and nearly 9,000 against Monterrey. With team and national player Gonzalez returning home the crowd should be strong, particularly with their recent run of form in the league. Sigi, like his former fans, wants to see more from the leftback this CCL season;
We’re trying to make sure he stays on the field and plays more minutes. […] He always looks forward to coming home. You can tell by the size of the luggage that he takes he’s definitely bringing presents for somebody and playing against his old club is special for him, as well. He’s excited about this and it’s important for us to have him on this trip.
The Sounders are learning to adjust their style of play and attitudes towards the referee. Some of this is due to their previous experiences in the CCL, but games like last Saturday against Real Salt Lake probably help the team focus on what they can do themselves more than what the other team is doing to influence the referee.
The games are definitely different in Champions League. […] The fields are of a different quality, different condition, so that makes you play a little bit differently. I think in Champions League you’ve got to take some pride in keeping the ball. You’ve got to do a better job in keeping the ball than in MLS because it doesn’t come back as quickly once it turns over. You can’t get caught into the theatrics of the game. I think what happens in CONCACAF a little bit is there’s a little more, I don’t know if embellishment is the right word, but a little more dramatic flair in players falling down when they get hit or pushed or touched or blown on and sometimes the referees are quick to call that, sometimes they don’t, so you have to take into account the referees you have, what country they’re from, how they’re going to interpret the game a little bit. So those are all the little nuances you’ve got to look at and make sure you’re going to prepare your team for.
There is little guide available to Sigi Schmid, let alone us, as to who the coach of Herediano will put out there. The previous coach used the talent as per the roster page at CONCACAF.com, but everything is different. This is a match where Seattle must self-define. As in every CCL season there will always be teams of unknowns, and in Group D this is the most of those.