Sounders assistant coach Gonzalo Pineda knows better than most what the Seattle Sounders can expect from C.D. Guadalajara in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal on Wednesday night. The retired midfielder made over 100 appearances for Chivas between 2006 and 2010 and spent time as a television presenter for Liga MX broadcasts before joining Brian Schmetzer’s staff ahead of last season.
Pineda, who spent the final two years of his career in Rave Green, said Tuesday that Chivas will be a good test for Seattle’s oft-stated ambitions to become one of the preeminent clubs in the world. For him, MLS is quickly closing the gap on Liga MX.
“I think MLS is for sure much, much better [than it was five years ago],” Pineda said Tuesday. “Compared with the Mexican league... MLS is improving year after year. Now with this Targeted Allocation Money it’s getting better. That’s going to reduce the gap and the level between us and the Mexican league and even now, we’re very close to the Mexican teams.”
Still, success against Mexican clubs in the Champions League has remained elusive and has often been used as a touchstone to decry the league-wide improvements MLS has enjoyed in recent years. Seattle has only ever surpassed one Liga MX club in the elimination round of Champions League, when it beat Tigres at home 3-1 in the second leg to reach the semifinals — the club’s best ever finish in Champions League play.
As others on this site have written, the Champions League is Seattle’s chance to burn its name into the history books on yet another page, with what would undoubtedly be begrudging respect from clubs foreign and domestic. It was the reason Schmetzer was content to roll out a lesser lineup in the season opener.
For Schmetzer, the opportunity to consult a former Chivas player like Pineda, who is always up to date on the Mexican game, is a boon.
“(Pineda) worked as a TV commentator for Univision, so he saw all the games in the season last year,” Schmetzer said Tuesday. “He obviously has played for the club. He knows many, many Mexican players past and still playing today. His being a resource to us as a club is invaluable.”
Pineda knows that Chivas will be stiff competition for Seattle, even as they dwell in 16th place in the Clausura after 10 matches, the most recent a 1-1 draw with Club America. Still, the former Mexican international believes that Seattle is up to the task.
“We have certain tactics specific to Chivas,” Pineda said. “That’s why we do the scouting. Overall, I want the team to play like the Sounders. Play with good position, be creative in the final third. Play between the lines and all that stuff that we do really well with the talent that we have, we want to play normally.
“That’s what we’re going to need against Chivas. They’re a very dynamic and fast team, so we’re going to need the same energy. Especially the second part of the first half and the second half, we’re going to be okay because we have talented players that can produce from nowhere.”