With just one win ten games into their season Chivas de Guadalajara might already be looking at CONCACAF Champions League as their only path to glory. Their offense put in just 11 goals while the defense gave up 16 in the early season. This is as weak a Mexican opponent as the Seattle Sounders have faced in their CCL history, but it is still one of the hemisphere’s giants.
Chivas has a huge budget and a following that crosses both borders. They and Club América are the examples of how large a club in CONCACAF can be. This is an appropriate stepping stone for the Sounders. Over two legs Seattle must be as good as they can be with the current state of the roster. The quality differences are large. hay fe.
Rigo from FMF State of Mind answered Three Questions after the weekend’s games, but before Chivas practiced in Seattle.
SaH: Chivas went for it against America. Does that mean they think they have the upper hand against the Sounders?
FMFSoM: Chivas putting out their starting squad against club America doesn’t necessarily mean that Chivas think they have the upper hand over Seattle. Its more so the fact that Chivas was playing their archrival, and in a game of that magnitude it does not matter what place you are in the table or how many tournaments you are playing in, the best line up must be on the field. I do believe that Chivas are taking Seattle very seriously and more than likely will be trotting out the starting squad for their match.
SaH: Who is the best player that rested in El Super Classico, and how will they do on the road here in Seattle?
FMFSoM: Chivas essentially put out their best players in the Clasico and even brought on their best subs for the match. The two players that did not play that could see action are central defender Jair Periera and midfielder Gael Sandoval. Periera is Chivas’ best defender but has struggled to overcome injuries this season; while many thought he would make his comeback against America it was announced he was still a few days out. Sandoval also rested on Saturday night. The youngster that Chivas acquired from Santos in the offseason has seen consistent minutes throughout the season, so his absence as a sub on Saturday was noticeable and he could be a starter against Seattle for that reason.
SaH: Why has Guadalajara struggled in the league? Will that carry over to CCL play?
FMFSoM: Chivas has struggled this season for two reasons, lack of goal scoring and deficiencies on defense. The team failed to acquire anyone of notoriety at either position knowing they were areas of need. On defense the team’s best defender has struggled with injuries, Carlos Salcido is 36 years old and is just not the same player he was once was, and Osvaldo Alanis is just not a good defender. On offense the team’s strikers are all very young and while Alan Pulido is the teams top goal scorer he is not a natural number 9; he prefers to sit behind the striker and help build plays. The young strikers that the team does have just have not been able to be consistent enough and put away chances. Both of these issues have already carried over into the CCL. While they haven’t given up a goal, they struggled to score against Cibao FC in the Dominican Republic and were lucky to not have conceded a goal there. Seattle is a much a better team than Cibao — offensively the Sounders could certainly exploit Chivas’ defense and if Chivas doesn’t put away their chances like they have in the league it could be a long quarterfinal matchup for Chivas.
FMFSoM: MLS teams have historically struggled against LigaMX teams, but Sounders are one of the top teams in MLS and Chivas are currently struggling, By sitting sitting some starters in their first game of the season are they trying to put an end to historic LigaMX dominance?
SaH: Sounders history has both struggles (a 6-1 loss to Santos Laguna) and victories against Liga MX sides. They’ve beaten Monterrey in Monterrey, advanced after beating Tigres over two legs in the knockout rounds. This team, at its best, can compete with Mexican sides, but things need to be nearly perfect. That’s why coach Brian Schmetzer rested Clint Dempsey, Chad Marshall, Roman Torres and Magnus Wolff Eikrem. To beat Chivas will take nearly everything. Look for the Sounders to do what they can to take a two-goal lead at home. That might mean a slightly softer defense for something like a 3-1. They will be confident that they can go on the road and keep the score tight. They’ve done it in MLS Cup and past Champions League matches. Leg one is when good soccer will be played, and then leg two will be a soul-crushing education in how a lesser team attempts to bunker.
FMFSoM: Seattle has one of the best crowds and fan bases in MLS, but Mexican teams, and Chivas in particular, bring a lot of fans to the stadiums. Is Seattle worried that their home field advantage could be gone?
SaH: They shouldn’t be. This match is part of the season ticket package, which means 35,000+ fans just to start. There is a significant ad campaign, too. Their new radio partner is building the game up and every ticket holder is getting email and phone calls asking them to be there. While Chivas does get fans here the Rave Green faithful will not be overwhelmed. Single game seats are also far away. That lessens the impact even if Guadalajara fans do show up en masse. They will be further from the field, up in the 300 level (which is a good view of the action, but hard to influence what happens).
FMFSoM: What are the weakest areas of the Seattle lineup that Chivas could look to exploit?
SaH: Fullback, especially right back, is quite vulnerable, at least in leg one. With Kelvin Leerdam out Schmetzer is counting on a former USL (lower division) player as his starter. Jordan McCrary may eventually be MLS caliber, but right now his defense is weak, both in positioning and when on the man with the ball. Expect Seattle to provide him support either by splitting the CBs wider or having one of the defensive midfielders cheat over. That opens up other weaknesses, but it is the best they can do in a bad situation.