Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE
The Seattle Sounders have a chance to put their foot solidly in the door for advancement in the CONCACAF Champions League with a win over Trinidad and Tobago club Caledonia. In the three-team table format, wins are more important than ever, and a victory would force Marathon to beat Seattle at least once to move on. That makes a victory key.
Yet the Sounders still have a shot to contend for the number one seed in the playoffs, which means keeping players rested for league games like the coming Dallas fixture. Sigi has always found ways to manage his starting 11 effectively, and there's no more important time to do so than now. But expect a comparatively strong lineup to take the field tomorrow night
You can pencil out Adam Johansson right now. Wait, is penciling-out a thing? Point is he won't be starting this match, and I wouldn't bet my cardboard box on him being in the 18 either. Since returning from his hammy issues earlier this season, Johansson hasn't gone back to back weekend-midweek games once. Champions League is important, but not important enough to lose perhaps Seattle's best defender for a significant length of time. Scott will get the call, and will be expected to go the full 90. (Though if Sigi wants to call on his ZSMM powers against Brek Shea, perhaps Johansson will see 30 minutes on the pitch).
Against Chivas, Seattle started both Jeff Parke and John Kennedy Hurtado, meaning that in all likelihood one of those two will sit out in place of Patrick Ianni. Additionally, whoever of Parke and Hurtado plays Thursday will probably sit out in Dallas. It's a tossup, but look for Hurtado to start in Trinidad alongside Ianni.
Leo Gonzalez played the full match in Chivas, implying a start from Marc Burch in this one. Burch was moderately effective in the attack in the previous Sounders-Caledonia fixture, and the absence of Johansson's forward play may further push Burch up the field.
Ozzie Alonso is expected to play for 90 minutes in essentially every Sounders match that pops up on the schedule. The betting money would be on seeing that trend continue to see if Seattle can put a real stranglehold on this Champions League group. However, if the Sounders are stomping Caledonia the way they did Chivas by the 70', a sub of Alonso for Carrasco could be in the cards. Not that he'll care either way.
In what might someday become known as my "Ballsy Pick of the Week" (TM) I'm predicting a start for Cordell Cato on the right wing against Caledonia, and I'll give you ten reasons why. Firstly, Cato played in the first leg against Caledonia, and was credited in the winning goal. Secondly, you could start Rosales, but he just played nearly a full game running all over the pitch. Parts 3-10 are about Cordell Cato playing in front of his countrymen. What better motivator could there be than to return home to play a local side? Expect Cato to have the best game we've seen from him.
Seattle is about to lose Mario Martinez to the Honduran National Team for a few weeks, so this is an ideal opportunity to get him in at his most comfortable position; on the left wing. This would be Martinez' first start for the club since joining the Sounders off a spectacular Olympic performance.
On the second of August, Andy Rose had two assists and the clinching goal in Seattle's 3-1 win over Caledonia, and having the weekend off frees him up for a full match in the Carribean. However, fractured ribs sustained against Vancouver may keep him off the starting roster, opening the door for Brad Evans. Evans played a full game Saturday, but his fitness should allow him to be a strong veteran presence in the midfield.
It is nigh impossible to bench a player as hot as Fredy Montero is right now. Coming off a hat trick and leading the team in all-competition goals, Montero should be good for at least 60 minutes of goal-scoring action. His forward partner may be a little more complicated however. The easy choice would be Eddie Johnson, but he played a full match in Los Angeles over the weekend and will be wanted at full strength in Texas and unless he's Jason Bourne his Twitter has indicated he's still in Seattle. The next choice would be Sammy Ochoa, who scored the first goal against Caledonia earlier this month and has been on a real tear in his limited playing time.