The Seattle Sounders now know their opponents after the completion of the opening round game between Al Ahly SC and Auckland City FC. Al Ahly, the leaders of the Egyptian Premier League, defeated the Oceania representatives 3-0 and made relatively simple work of it as they outshot their opponents 21 to 3.
A defensive masterclass and a shutout against a team several levels below them isn’t much of a surprise from Al Ahly, as they’ve conceded only 5 goals in 15 league games this season, and never more than one in a game. Auckland City gave a respectable effort and kept things relatively even throughout the first half, but Hussein El Shahat’s goal just before halftime shifted things in Al Ahly’s favor and there was no looking back.
Al Ahly’s leading scorer, Mohamed Sherif, doubled the lead in the 56th minute with his fourth goal in his last three games, and substitute Percy Tau put the game away in the 86th minute. Tau’s goal finished off a slick passage of play that saw some line-breaking passes and one clever back heel that demonstrated the kind of chemistry that comes from being in midseason form, one advantage Al Ahly will have over the Sounders.
Another factor that may weigh in Al Ahly’s favor is the crowd. The atmosphere for the opening game was quite good, with a full and lively crowd at Grand Stade de Tanger to cheer on the proceedings. While Sounders fans are traveling in good numbers considering the distance, Al Ahly should be significantly better represented in the stadium on Saturday. That surely won’t deter Seattle as they take the field as the first MLS team to compete in the competition, though.
Kickoff time change
The Sounders’ match against Al Ahly will kick off at 9 AM Pacific on Saturday, 30 minutes earlier than was originally scheduled.