Just days away from facing Seattle, I was able to briefly chat with coach Pedro Troglio who currently has his team playing their best soccer of the season. Coming from back-to-back wins, while outscoring both opponents 8-1, Los merengues have been able to settle after a rough start to the Honduran league Clausura.
The Argentine tactician was particularly happy about Olimpia’s 3-1 win over undefeated C.D.S Vida, overcoming an early goal on the first half in part thanks to a brace scored by 22-year-old forward Jose Pinto who can certainly be a handful.
“We didn’t just create lots of scoring opportunities, we also capitalized when we needed. We truly played our best game of the season”, said an ecstatic coach Troglio about his team’s performance.
Nonetheless, C.D Olimpia will be missing two key players when they play their first fixture against the Rave Green. Michaell Chirinos has been a crucial this season but will be out for at least another 2-3 weeks with a serious muscular strain, while Jorge Alvarez, one of the best young players in Honduras at both club and national team level with the U23s, just underwent knee surgery and will rehabilitating for a couple of months.
Regardless of how critical the absence of these players could be, Pedro Troglio sounded extremely confident, his team could maneuver passed these injuries at least in the first round of CONCACAF Champions League against the Seattle Sounders.
“We have a pair of significant casualties, like the ones to Chirinos and Alvarez” Troglio told Sounder at heart.
“But we have a sturdy roster in terms depth, player which I can bring in, move around, so we should be able to try that without a problem and replace our injured players”.
There will certainly be several changes and rotations necessary by the Honduran side, as Jonathan Paz and Myron Flores will also be unavailable to take on Sounders this week. Regardless of the circumstances, “Los leones” current form has Pedro Trogilio more than satisfied, players like Jose Cañete, Justin Arboleda and Jose Mario Pinto have stepped up their game. While his squad’s character as well as their attitude coming into this game, was an important factorthe former Gimnasia de la Plata head coach felt was worth highlighting.
“We are an intense, aggressive team, with a high motor and skillful players out wide. I have a team capable of putting up a fight, a team hungry to qualify to the next round and I’m willing to bet in those players’ desire to do it”, explained Troglio.
However, the head coach is aware their first CCL match will not be easy, and it is something he had been preparing for long before the fixtures for this phase of the tournament were drawn.
“All the potential match ups for this round were going to be against great teams and we ended up drawing the United States champions. We expected to play a complicated opponent in this game and Seattle certainly is”.
That said, at this time the reigning champs are still working through to their preseason, not to mention they have only played one first division team out of five friendlies Seattle has had. It is hard to accurately assessed where this 2020 Sounders team, but it could be fair to say the home team will have competitive edge in terms of game rhythm.
C.D Olimpia is currently sitting third in standings of Liga Salva Vida and as a unit are clearly in regular season form, as they are eight games into league play. Coach Troglio did admit playing a team coming right off preseason could give his club a slight edge coming into this game, but it would not determine the outcome.
“It’s good for us that we are already in competition as we have to face team coming from preseason, but we still have to play the game. It will come down to momentum, situations, how things playout”, explained the head coach, also adding “Logically we’ll try using this to our favor and turning it to one of our strengths”.
The lack of televised games could be considered a strategical challenge, especially against a team like Seattle that has added a couple of presumed starters and will have players conducting dissimilar roles than last season. Although it did not seem to face Olimpia’s man in charge, who insisted he was familiar with Sounders style of play and knew their payers well, particularly those from South America.
“They have a championship team, with great American players, we know what players like Lodeiro and Ruidiaz are capable of doing, as I’ve been fortunate to follow and watch them at one point”, declared with assertiveness Pedro Troglio before adding.
“Their strength is in their possession, good transition, they create lots of opportunities on goal. Therefore our objective will be neutralizing them on the offensive end”.
Unfortunately for “Los merengues”, they will not have to execute this plan away from their own stadium as the 1st leg of their CCL game was moved to San Pedro Sula, not an ideal situation for the Honduran side which will have to close the fixture in Seattle. Although Olimpia’s coach this admit “It’s always better to play at home”, he still felt confident playing in Honduras would give his team the home field advantage necessary to pull off a good result.
Going into this game, most would more than likely consider Seattle the favorite despite the question mark of where they in a soccer aspect and which players are ready for Thursday. Pedro Troglio is aware of the narrative behind central American teams, facing those from MLS but he knows it all comes down to the 180 minutes or more of play.
“The perception is that it will be difficult but not impossible. Beyond the economic aspects, the strength of their roster and everything else that important leagues like the one in the United States possess. We are confident it will all come down to the 11 on 11 playing on the field and that we can advance to the next round”.