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Five things to know when Sounders take on NYFC in first leg of CCL semifinal

It’s a big, big game. Get excited.

New York City FC vs Seattle Sounders FC Set Number: SI918 TK1

The Seattle Sounders are on the doorstep of history as they take on NYCFC in the first leg on the Concacaf Champions League semifinal. Here’s the five things you need to know ahead of the match.

Everyone* is available

The Sounders have had some unfortunate luck in the early stages of this season. Nicolas Lodeiro and Raúl Ruidíaz have both missed significant time this season, but they both played a half against Minnesota United with eyes on starting tonight against NYCFC. The only exception to this is that Yeimar Gomez Andrade is going to miss out on the first leg (no pun intended) because of a sprained ankle. Jackson Ragen is penciled in as the starter alongside Xavier Arreaga.

Fredy to the rescue

The years of expecting Fredy Montero to be the guy for the Sounders are obviously behind us, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be relied upon. Montero has 10 CCL goals in his career, which ties him for the most among MLS players. It’s probably unlikely that Ruidíaz will go 90 minutes, so having an option like Montero on the bench is great to have. Even the possibility of the Sounders needing a late goal for any reason, Fredy could be the guy to secure a big win.

NYCFC isn’t just a one-man show

Taty Castellanos is really good. The 2021 Golden Boot Winner and MLS Cup Champion was rumored to be leaving MLS in the offseason, but NYCFC held out for a high bid that never came in. And honestly, it’s probably worth it for them to expect something like $20m. But the NYCFC attack isn’t just the Taty show, far from it. Héber is finally fit and ready to play after dealing with injuries all of 2021. Talles Magno is a dangerous winger who likes to play on the left. The Sounders will have their hands full with NYCFC’s attack.

NYCFC missing key defenders

NYC will be without Anton Tinnerholm and Maxime Chanot tonight in Seattle. On the surface, anytime a team is missing an MLS Best XI-caliber rightback and a centerback that started an MLS Cup Final you’d think that would be a disadvantage. However, NYCFC’s replacements are very good. Thiago Martins is a centerback that NYCFC signed in the offseason with plans on replacing Chanot long-term. He’s been standing in for Chanot and doing really well.

Tinnerholm ruptured his Achilles tendon last October and is still recovering. Tayvon Gray, an academy product, has started in his place since then and after his own bout with injury appears to be back. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s one of the next young American exports from MLS.

History within grasp

It’s really hard to overstate how big of a deal this opportunity is for the Sounders. An MLS team has never won a CCL championship. On top of that, only four MLS clubs have ever made the final. The club is obviously focused on the task in front of them, and no one cares if you lose in the semifinals. But as fans, it’s OK to get swept up and get carried away — it’s what being a fan is all about. You can and should be excited about this.

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