TUKWILA, Wash. — If it seems like the Seattle Sounders just got done dealing with international duty, they did. But Monday morning at Starfire, they were preparing for it again, in a way.
Fortunately this time around, the travel will be negligible, excepting the whims of I-5 traffic on the way to Lumen Field, where the Sounders will welcoming an old foe from across the border with a chance to exorcise some old demons as Liga MX side Santos Laguna pays a visit.
Those previous match-ups with Santos Laguna were on the mind of Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer after Monday’s training session. Though it’s been nearly a decade since the Sounders last went head-to-head with Santos Laguna, it wasn’t difficult for Schmetzer to reach back for some thoughts on the next installment of the meeting between the two clubs in Tuesday’s Leagues Cup semifinal.
“Both teams are a little different, but I have fond memories, well maybe not so fond memories because they beat us pretty good the one game,” Schmetzer said, referring to the 2011-2012 Champions League series, in which the Sounders won the opening leg 2-1, only to suffer a 6-1 defeat in the away leg. The teams met the following year in a more competitive series, where the Sounders lost 2-1 on aggregate.
Though the format is very different for this League’s Cup showdown, Schmetzer said the team has devoted significant resources to preparing for the matchup.
“We’ve had film on them for the last two weeks,” Schmetzer said. “Behind the scenes, the video guys and coaches have already looked at certain things, aspects of their play, how they play.”
With the fixture congestion — the Sounders are in the midst of playing as many as seven games in about three weeks — there will still be issues trying to implement a game plan on short notice.
“The challenge is that we coaches have done a lot, but the players haven’t seen as much film as we have,” Schmetzer said. “So getting that information to the players, giving them the tools to be successful, that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Schmetzer reiterated that he intends to take the competition seriously, a mantra he backed up in the quarterfinal match, in which he played most of his available first-choice line against Tigres.
“It’s important for our club,” Schmetzer said. “The narrative is always Liga MX versus MLS and how do we catch them. No MLS team has won Champions League but at the end of the day, we take this game as a chance to measure ourselves against the best Liga MX teams.”
Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan took it a step further, noting that winning Leagues Cup is a worthy goal of its own, independent of who they play on the way to the final.
“We want to get to the final,” Roldan said. “If we were playing Orlando (the team Santos Laguna beat) we’d want to win just as bad because it’s a chance to win a trophy. All you have to do is win two games and you’re in a final, that’s what excites players. If that doesn’t excite you, you’re in the wrong business. It doesn’t matter the opponent.”
True to his word, almost all of the available first team roster was involved in training, save Nicolas Lodeiro, who is still working his way back to full fitness after his extended layoff. That included Raúl Ruidíaz and Xavier Arreaga, who weren’t available for the Minnesota match. Schmetzer said all healthy players will be available for selection on Tuesday.
“There were guys on varied levels of recovery today,” Schmetzer said. “It’s a tricky day. We’ve done it before. We’ve had a couple of interesting weeks this MLS season, so guys are used to it.”