Whenever the Seattle Sounders have discussed Concacaf Champions League, they’ve been sure to point out that they learned from their most previous experience. As you may remember, the Sounders came into the home leg of that series tied only to fall in penalties.
The situation this time is not exactly the same — they’re currently tied 0-0 with Motagua, rather than 2-2 with CD Olimpia — but the principles remain the same. If they win, they advance. Here’s what we’re hoping to see:
Score early, score often
Although the Sounders had the late lead against Olimpia, it’s worth remembering that they also fell behind early. That meant that they never really got into game-management mode, perhaps explaining why they were so vulnerable to the late strike that sent that series into penalties. It behooves them to avoid such nerviness in this one.
Not only does an early goal help calm the nerves of fans who are still frustrated about how last season ended, but if they can grab a couple of early ones they might be able to give some of their starters extra rest ahead of the MLS season-opener on Sunday. - Jeremiah
Release João Paulo
Obed Vargas did about as well as you could expect from a 16-year-old making his first-ever start away from home in the Concacaf Champions League. But, to state the obvious, he’s not João Paulo, the Sounders’ reigning team MVP. The Sounders struggled at times to turn possession into danger. Every player in the attack seemed to be playing about 10 yards deeper than they’d want to be ideally.
His presence in the midfield will also help with the one hope forward Motagua has: counterattacks. João Paulo is so underrated defensively, and sitting as the deepest midfielder he’ll be able to snuff out Motagua’s counters when they happen. - Mark
Rebuild the fortress
Probably the most frustrating thing about 2021 was that for all the Sounders’ success, they were actually very mediocre at Lumen Field. The Sounders finished the regular season averaging just 1.71 points per game at home. That’s at least respectable by MLS standards, but it’s also the worst in Sounders history. The worst part is that the Sounders failed to win any of their last three at home. That forecasts call for it to be 40 degrees colder in Seattle than in San Pedro Sula should only add to that advantage and should give the Sounders a wonderful opportunity to turn around the narrative of last year. - Jeremiah
Much has been made this preseason about how good the Sounders’ starting XI looks on paper. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see that on the field in the first match against Motagua. But with Nouhou and João Paulo now seemingly fit and fully integrated, that should change. If they play anywhere close to their potential, advancement should not be a concern. - Jeremiah
The Fab Four
Part of starting the strongest possible XI means we get to see more of Jordan Morris, Raúl Ruidíaz, Nico Lodeiro, and Albert Rusnák. We all know what can happen if this attack reaches its full potential, but they won’t get there without more reps together. Having the deadly front four playing together with the ideal XI around them will certainly help them reach their potential quicker. Hopefully tonight! - Mark