CF Monterrey Rayados managed to pick off misplaced passes by the Seattle Sounders and nicked two goals. If that feels like a pattern for the Seattle side it is, having plagued them in their MLS match as well. The result has the Mexican side finish top of their group while the Sounders advance from the second position.
In Bryan Meredith's first start in goal he was forced to defend some of the best players that CONCACAF has to offer. Abraham Carreño started the goal scoring in the third minute (4th in CCL group) assisted by Humberto Suazo. As frequently happens Seattle managed to come back and draw the game. This time the Sounders captain took his shot from a set-piece and showed how truly amazing his shots can be. Scoring in the 42nd minute it was Fredy Montero's 17th goal in all competitions on the year. But Seattle's attempt to just get a draw was stopped when César Delgado picked up a blocked shot by Sauzo and drove it past two defenders and slightly above a diving Meredith.
With a slightly less than ideal XI Sigi Schmid's side still had opportunities to capitalize. But they fell short whether it was shots just wide when Montero was turning or Sammy Ochoa with a header right at the keeper the Sounders fell short though they had more chances on offense. Monterrey used a rapid counter that only had one other shot on frame that resulted in a Meredith save.
That counter attack showed a weakness that Seattle has, particularly when facing the better teams in either CONCACAF on in MLS. Despite Osvaldo Alonso's ball winning skills, there are still balls he can't get. Even if he disrupts the play the defense can't just pass it weakly back to the keeper or to each other in a casual sense. Whether it was the first match of the season, or tonight casualness slips into the defense. The best teams the Sounders face exploit this and win. With the MLS Cup Playoffs coming up the scouting report against Seattle will include this game.
It wasn't all dire. First, the result barely mattered. The teams finishing first in CCL Groups aren't dramatically better than those finishing second. So when the draw happens Seattle may face a team from Mexico, or Los Angeles, or Toronto. But that would be the case anyway. The Sounders in just their third year as an MLS club have advanced. They did so by earning 7 points in Mexico and Central America. Next March they will need to re-find that magic.
Secondly, a few players got extended looks. David Estrada's advancement in tactical awareness and strength is readily apparent. He's gone from being a slight, technical player with a bit of speed to having the ability to compliment the greater team quite well and is provides a 4th option out wide. Sammy Ochoa showed that he offers solid tactical awareness, strength and can win a few more headers than Seattle's used to seeing. Ochoa is clearly part of a three-man forward unit that can be used to dramatically shift tactics in ways that will be more fully discussed tomorrow.
Lastly, Montero can just be amazing. In a match that had two other men who have been captain at times, Schmid put the armband on his forward. That recognition may not have shown itself in the way he related to the team or the referee crew, but his skill clearly earned the honor. He had a few plays that showed he belongs in an MVP discussion, and that while he has things to learn the way he stays in MLS is because its skill catches him, not because he won't be wanted by richer teams in Europe.