Over the course the last week or so, the Seattle Sounders have been preaching a simple but elegant motto: "Difficult does not mean impossible."
They know that no MLS team has won a CONCACAF Champions League knockout stage game in Mexico. They know that Estadio Azteca is one of the most imposing venues in all of North America. They are aware of the potential challenges of playing at nearly 7,500 feet of elevation. They have already experienced the quality of their opponent and know they spent the last week getting healthier. They've acknowledged that they are in preseason, while Club America is in the middle of theirs.
There are a lot of reasons -- or excuses -- the Sounders can come up with to explain away what just about everyone expects will be a failure.
And the reality is that the Sounders are decided underdogs in this match, effectively needing to make history just to advance to the CCL semifinals, where another very good Mexican team will almost surely be waiting.
But that hasn't done anything to change their approach.
Despite the very real possibility that bringing the full first team to Mexico will hurt their chances in the regular-season opener just a few days later, that's exactly what they did.
Clint Dempsey, Nelson Haedo Valdez, Andreas Ivanschitz, Osvaldo Alonso and everyone else who started in the first leg made the trip to Mexico City. There's no reason to think Sigi Schmid will change the lineup that performed so well.
That's because, as much as anyone, Schmid knows how special it is to be in this position: That even if the prospects of success are limited, that this is as good of a chance as any for the Sounders to become the first MLS team to win CCL. Never before have the Sounders been this healthy, this experienced and this talented (at least among the starters). Never before have they faced a Mexican opponent leaking goals as badly as Club America (nine allowed in their last three games). Never before has Estadio Azteca seemed less foreboding (America is 1-1-2 there during the Clausura).
Have no illusions, even if the Sounders beat Club America tonight and somehow go on to win CCL, the paradigm between MLS and Liga MX will not be irreparably changed. Liga MX will continue to have deeper rosters and will continue to have many of the advantages they have always had. To seriously change any of that, MLS will have to dramatically rethink the way they allow teams to spend their budgets. This would be the case even if Real Salt Lake had won in 2012 or if the Montreal Impact had done it again last year. Yes, they would have shown it's possible, but that should have never been in doubt.
But this is not about the Sounders carrying the flag for MLS. While it may be a nice feather in that cap and give fans around the league some measure of pride, the Sounders should be in this for themselves. This Sounders team has a chance to make history. This Sounders team has a chance to make their fans proud. This Sounders team understands that "difficult" may be an understatement, but that's no excuse not to give it everything they got.