SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC v. SANTA TECLA FC – CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Round of 16 2nd Leg – Royal Brougham Park, Seattle, Washington

by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)

Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green.

Battle lines have been drawn. Santa Tecla make the long trip up north to the Evergreen and face our Sounders to conclude this Round of 16 CONCACAF Champions League tie.

Morris fell injured last week in San Salvador and is gone for the season as he attempts to rehabilitate his torn knee ligament. Our first concern is for Jordan’s health, but we’d all be lying if we didn’t say it makes us wonder how it will affect our chances to win a trophy this season. Mend soon, Jordo.

A 1:0 win puts the Sounders through to the quarter-finals. A 2:1 win for the Sounders would bring extra time, and possibly penalties. You know how the cup tie math works. Any tie in aggregate score makes away goals count double. So there’s a lot at stake.

Time to gather the Green Family, at the ground, and at local pubs in Seattle and MLS cities across the country. Assemble your people and sing loud, be heard, and be kind. For those at the match Thursday night, eyes bright, voices loud. One club. One voice.

I will be in attendance at the ground, and I will lend my voice to the thousands in attendance. I expect to be completely hoarse when I return home.

Before kick-off, join me in the auld toast: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB…AND VICTORY!!!

Tonight’s match is a massive one. Guess who plays well in massive fixtures?

The Good News
Santa Tecla holds a 2:1 advantage coming into the second leg. However, our Sounders scored a vital away goal, via Nicolas Lodeiro’s stunning, cheeky, 40-yard chip. Lodeiro’s shot arced over Santa Tecla goalkeeper, Almeida, who had been embarrassingly caught out and was racing back to cover his line, and by extension, his arse.

The Sounders have had an additional week of training. Hopefully, this means that our fitness level should be higher than we demonstrated in the 2nd half in San Salvador.

Sounders Manager, Brian Schmetzer, has announced that he is “…going to put out the best lineup for Thursday…” Looks like the kid gloves are coming off, this can only be good for the Sounders who fielded only five regular first-team players in San Salvador a week ago.

If history is to have any bearing on the match, the Sounders have won 10 of 16 at home in the CCL. Far better odds than their away record in the competition, four wins in 16 matches.

Santa Tecla is a small club that only achieved promotion to the top division roughly six years ago. They feature some younger players that in some instances have played for El Salvador, and cobbled in a few veteran mercenaries to harden up the side. In a way, not unlike the process that forged the Sounders.

The two biggest clubs in El Salvador are Alianza and Audaz, both having stadia that seat over 50,000 supporters. Santa Tecla’s ground only seats 3000, the lowest capacity in the division.

I’ve looked at the Apertura results from this season which show Santa Tecla only managed a 1:1 draw at Alianza, and narrowly won 2:1 at Audaz. Thursday’s match will feel, for them, like playing against those giants from their league, as Royal Brougham Park seats nearly 40,000 (more for American Football), expanding to the better part of 70,000 when the upper bowl is open. We have the potential to be as intimidating as Alianza and Audaz.

Our last CCL match in Seattle was against Club America of Mexico, and we drew nearly 43,000. I think we can do better. It’s going to be very, very, loud.

Having said all of the above, I favour the Sounders FC against any club that has the misfortune of having to play such a decisive fixture against us in the Evergreen.

The Bad News
Jordan Morris tore his ACL in the first leg and will miss the rest of the season. The severe injury for Morris, in his first competitive match this season, comes as a sudden shock as well as an irreplaceable loss for the Sounders. Bruin and Dempsey have plenty of quality, but neither has the pace of Morris.

Santa Tecla have superior match fitness as they are already five matches into their Torneo Clausura and have played 25 overall league matches this season. The Sounders will be hard pressed to equal STFCs match sharpness.

Matamoros, The Honduran referee, gave Santa Tecla what I would charitably refer to as a soft penalty in the 75th minute of the first leg. In my estimation, the STFC attacker went up for an aerial challenge with Marshall, committing hand-ball in mid-air, landed safely with no harm done, took two steps, promptly fell to the pitch and Matamoros pointed to the spot. A fellow FCF observer remarked to me that our defender McCrary swept the attacking player’s leg, but that he still thought that the penalty call was a harsh one. Either way, I don’t think anyone who follows football in the CONCACAF Zone would say that the officiating is what one would refer to as consistent or even-handed. Let’s hope that the cup tie doesn’t turn pear-shaped on the hinge of one dodgy call.

We were outshot 11:5 by STFC in the first leg. It can’t be like that again. To be fair the shots on target were a more even 5:4 in favour of the Salvadorans.

Passing accuracy was a win for STFC at 88% with the Sounders lagging behind at 78%. We’ll have to do better.

I pointed out above that Santa Tecla is a small club that tries to play giant-killer against the two most visible clubs in Salvadoran football. It’s become startlingly clear to me that STFC is unafraid of any club they line up against, regardless of whether there are 3000 or 60,000 in attendance. In fact, I feel like STFC manifest a massive chip on their shoulders when they face bigger clubs.

As I pointed out last week, America has much to atone for with our Salvadoran neighbours. I imagine these transgressions are used by Salvadoran clubs and the El Salvador national team as (understandable) justification for cheating at football and is sometimes aided and abetted by CONCACAF officials, particularly at away fixtures in Central America. Perhaps telling 200,000 mostly law-abiding immigrants that they have to go back to El Salvador probably doesn’t do much to improve America’s tarnished image with regards to foreign policy.

Know Thine Enemy
[This list reflects STFC Manager, Ruben DaSilva’s selection for the first leg]

Goalkeeper –
Joel Almeida, 27, is the clear favourite to start. The Mexican national has started 92 matches over the last three league seasons for STFC. Ramirez, 26, the back-up has only started five matches this season. Mancia, 19, is the young apprentice of the three and has yet to play in the league this season.

Defence –
Barahona, 23 has played in 28 matches for STFC, scoring five goals. It is his third season with Santa Tecla during which he has amassed 118 matches of experience. He has 14 caps and one goal for El Salvador.

Quinones, 29, is a Colombian national playing his first season with STFC. He has played six matches in the league. In 2010, his professional career started with Tauro in the Panamanian league and has seen him play in Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru before moving to San Salvador.

Dominguez, 20, has played in 23 matches this season. He has played 97 times in three seasons for STFC since he arrived in 2015 from Juventud. He has 13 caps for El Salvador.

Tamacas, 23, has played 28 matches this season scoring three goals. It is his fourth season with Santa Tecla, and the sixth of his career. He has played 150 matches of Salvadoran league football, scoring six goals. He has 11 caps for El Salvador.

Midfield –
Reyes, 18, has played 30 matches this season. It is the third season of his career. His career totals are 59 matches and five goals, all for STFC. He has no senior caps for El Salvador but played six times for El Salvador U-20s.

Mayen, 29, has played in eight matches in the league for STFC, scoring one goal. He wore the captain’s armband in the first leg. His professional career began in 2009 with Chivas USA of MLS where he played three seasons. This season is Mayen’s fifth with Santa Tecla. His career numbers are 243 matches scoring 38 goals. He scored both goals for STFC in the first leg. Mayen has 27 caps and two goals for El Salvador.

Quintanilla, 20, has played in 15 matches for STFC this season, scoring one goal. This season is Quintanilla’s first in professional football.

Rivera, 27, has played 21 matches this season. It is his sixth season with STFC. His career totals are 99 matches and two goals, all with STFC.

Forward –
Ricardinho, 31, a Brazilian national, has played 31 matches this season and leading the club with 10 goals. In his six seasons with Santa Tecla, he has played 144 matches and scored 55 goals. Couldn’t seem to find a regular place in Brazilian league football, but found a measure of success in El Salvador.

Wilma Torres, 23, has played eight league matches this season for STFC, scoring two goals. This season is Torres’ fifth in Salvadoran football. His career numbers are 133 matches and 16 goals.

New Faces
Defender, Kim Kee-Hee was signed on 27 February by the Sounders FC. His last club was Shanghai Shenhua of the Chinese Super League. It cost Shenhua a reported $6M to prise him away from his Korean club at the time, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Kim has 174 matches of professional football under his belt. His career began with Daegu FC of Korea. Kim plays both centre-half and defensive midfield. Welcome to the Evergreen, Kim!

Santa Tecla from: Almeida, Ramirez, Mancia, Arevalo, Ayala, Barahona, Dominguez, Flores Jaco, Mendoza, Yosimar Quinones, Tamacas, Walter Torres, Valladares, Acosta, Baires, Callejas, Cornejo, Mayen, Quintanilla, Reyes, Rivera, Wilma Torres, Alas, Argueta, Canales, Ricardinho, Majano, Moreno, Liber Quinones.

Sounders FC from: Frei, Meredith, Brown, Nouhou Tolo, Marshall, Alfaro, Leerdam, Roman Torres, McCrary, Francis, Kim, Svensson, Alonso, Cristian Roldan, Rodriguez, Lodeiro, Alex Roldan, Shipp, Delem, Eikrem, Wingo, Mathers, Bwana, Dempsey, Adekoya, Morris, Bruin, Neagle.

Injury List
Typically and infuriatingly there was no verifiable injury information at press time for Santa Tecla.

Jordan Morris suffered a torn ACL in San Salvador and is out for the season.

No other known injuries.

No players suspended from either side. Mayen of STFC is carrying a booking, as is Delem for the Sounders.

Fun Fact
Joseph Mondello of reported that Sounders Academy players Ray Serrano and Josh Atencio have been selected by John Hackworth for a United States U-17 camp. Well done, lads! I believe the children are our future…