SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC v. CD GUADALAJARA CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Quarter-Finals 1st Leg – Royal Brougham Park, Seattle, Washington

by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)

Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green.

The Chivas make the trip up to the Evergreen to face our Sounders in a vital first leg Quarter-Final in the Champions League. Guadalajara, struggling near the bottom of the Liga MX table, come to the Pacific Northwest looking for cup redemption against an injury-battered Sounders side attempting integrate their new reinforcements.

Gather your Green Family where you may. If you have a ticket to the match, enjoy yourselves at the ground. Eyes bright, voices loud. If you can’t manage a seat at the park or are out of town, link it up with your people at the local Sounders-friendly pub. Before kickoff, join me in the auld toast: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB…AND VICTORY!!!

One of the more dangerous attackers for the Sounders in their Sunday league match was Henry Wingo. Likely to be replaced by Dempsey or Lodeiro for tonight’s cup match. Wingo could figure into the endgame as a substitute though.

The Good News
I doubt that we’ll get a better chance to win than right here in the friendly confines of Royal Brougham Park. If Chivas select a half-reserves team for the away leg, we’re in with a shout, and it’s just a question of can we score enough goals to hold on in the second leg in Jalisco.

The Chivas are struggling in the Liga MX, where they currently sit third from bottom in an 18-team league. Maybe there are chinks in their armour with some reasonable path to victory.

The Sounders won more balls defensively off STFC than Chivas off Cibao, 41:27.

Wingo, Nouhou Tolo, Bwana, and Eikrem played very well indeed on Sunday against the visitors from the Southland. If they can maintain that form, we’re going to have more depth than we’ve known in recent years.

The Bad News
MLS Clubs have a salary cap. Liga MX clubs do not.

The Sounders may need several goals tonight if we want to try to win this cup tie. I think it likely that the away leg will see Guadalajara select its strongest side. That version of their team will be extremely difficult to beat in an environment that could be amongst the most hostile an American club could play in.

The Sounders dropped their season-opener to an expansion team. Granted, it was an expansion team with a lot of talent and coached by a veteran professional, but it was still an expansion team on the road. If you look at the numbers, the Sounders had the better of the play, but just couldn’t finish a chance. Football giveth and football taketh away. Fast-forward to enough pints of lager to forget that hard-luck defeat.

The Chivas are struggling in the Liga MX, where they currently sit third from bottom in an 18-team league. Maybe they mean to take out their frustrations on the gringos from Seattle.

Chivas are coming off a 7:0 aggregate demolition of Dominican side Cibao. Over their cup tie, they outshot the Sounders 43:17. They were called offside 16 times to our zero times.

We’ve mirrored the form of Chivas over the last five matches. The difference being some of our opponents over those five matches have been softer than the opposition that Guadalajara faced.

The Sounders are averaging more goals scored than the Chivas, and conceding fewer. It has to be said again, MLS is a weaker league than the Liga MX. So maybe it’s just a dead heat, and we’ll have to see.

Chivas come at you the same way every time. Essentially the bulk of their team are highly skilful, technical players whose names you can’t recognise. They line up across from your team on the pitch, and you can’t get the ball off them. If you give up the football cheaply, you won’t see it again for a few minutes. Guadalajara attack in combination, and with pace. The Chivas attempted 607 passes against Cibao with 84% passing accuracy. The Sounders had 79% accuracy attempting 472 passes. Chivas plays Death-by-a-thousand-cuts brand of football. Pass, pass, pass, until the defending side is so tired they’ve forgotten their names. This will be simply annoying in Seattle. In Jalisco, it could be the difference between defeat and victory.

I’ve listed the selection that played against Cibao in the 2nd leg of the Round of 16. One reason I’ve chosen to do this is that Cibao lined up similar to the way the Sounders line up, 4-2-3-1. There’s no guarantee that Chivas will select the same team. I suppose it depends on the Chivas’ estimation of how worthy an opponent the Sounders are.

Know Thine Enemy
Goalkeeper –
Cota, 30, has been on loan at Chivas since 2015 from Pachuca. He was meant to be competition with Chivas’ then first-team goalkeeper Jose Rodriguez. Cota proceeded to displace Rodriguez and is now first choice for Guadalajara. During his time in Zapopan, he has played 77 matches. He has played 184 matches in his professional career, previously playing for Pachuca and Puebla. Cota has earned two caps for Mexico.

Defence –
Alanis, 28, has played 47 times for the Chivas scoring four goals. He has 21 caps for Mexico scoring two goals. His career league numbers are 199 matches and nine goals scored. He previously played for Tecos and Santos Laguna before his move to Jalisco.

Basulto, 26, Has played 17 times for the Chivas since 2013. He has twice been on loan at U. de G. and Coras. He has 41 professional matches to his name, scoring one goal.

Mayorga, 20, has played 46 league matches for the Chivas this season.

Midfield –
Sandoval, 22, Has played six matches for the Chivas in this, his first season in Jalisco. Previously he was with Santos Laguna and Juarez. His total numbers are 90 matches with two goals scored.

Cervantes, 20, Has not played in the league for Chivas this season. He was loaned to Leon but was recalled in December. He has played only eight matches of Liga MX football this season, all with Leon.

Perez, 25, has played 18 matches with Chivas this season, scoring one goal. In his career, he has played 91 matches with two goals scored.

Jose Macias, 18, has played 12 matches for the Chivas this season, scoring two goals. It’s his first season in professional football.

Forward –
Carlos Cisneros, 24, has played 15 matches for the Chivas this season, scoring two goals. He’s played nearly 100 professional matches scoring 10 goals, all with the Chivas save for 29 matches and three goals with Atletico Zacatepec.

Ronaldo Cisneros has played five matches with the Chivas this season scoring one goal. This is his first season in Zapopan with the previous four played at Santos Laguna. His career league numbers are 14 matches played, and one goal scored.

Brizuela, 27, has played 22 times for the Chivas this season scoring one goal. This is his fourth season with Guadalajara, previously having played for Toluca, Atlas, and Atletico Mexiquense. His career numbers are 288 matches played scoring 26 goals. Brizuela has nine caps for Mexico. Brizuela wore the captain’s armband in the 2nd leg against Cibao.

Speculation and Musings
It’s a funny game, football. Top of the world one moment, then trying to figure out what the crap happened the next. Last Thursday, we’d triumphed in the return match over Santa Tecla, after having struggled so mightily against them in the away leg. Which led me to wonder “Why have the Sounders played only five regular starters in the away leg? What is Schmetz playing at?” Well, there wasn’t a good reason for having only five regulars on the pitch in my estimation. My estimation, upon further reflection, was completely wrongheaded.

Thursday, we rolled out seven starters, and there were some good reasons that we started cover players for Alonso, Leerdam, Morris, and Torres. With injuries the likely cause. I wonder if it were injuries at work determining the side in the first leg in El Salvador as well. Perhaps we started the season a bit more beaten up injury-wise than we had anticipated.

Did a bit of reading last night about muscle recovery as it relates to football. The consensus is that complete recovery can only be had with a minimum of 72 hours of rest. The FIFA recommendation is two days at a minimum between matches. There’s also training to consider, and what intensity to train at considering fixture congestion. It’s a knotty puzzle, and that’s why clubs have fitness coaches to sort this kind of thing out.

So my first thought at the start of Sunday’s match was: “Why are we playing only five regular starters today? What is Schmetz playing at?” My second thought was that several players are hurt, and another handful knackered from playing against the Salvadorans midweek in the Champions League. I feel like the Sounders have decent squad depth this season. Perhaps enough to contend for all trophies this season. This with the provision that we only need to provide cover at one or two positions per match. I think it’s a hard ask to leave out half the team and expect them to produce the same results as when we have our best selection on the pitch.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m glad that on Sunday we rested players for the Champions League Quarter-Final first leg against Chivas tonight. And the second thing I’m saying is that I’m disappointed that we lost to LAFC in our home opener. The third thing I’m saying is that if Schmetz is selecting cover players in the team, he probably has a good reason for doing so. I needed to work out the maths for myself, and that took a few days.

What I’ve learned about goalscoring on the Chivas. Pizarro has the most goals in the team with five. Jose Macias is the only Chivas player with more than one goal in the CCL, as he’s hit two. In light of this, the scoring could come from anywhere. Likely bets to score though would be Jose Macias, Pulido, Lopez, and Pizarro.

For the Sounders, I’d expect to see pretty much the team from the 2nd leg against Santa Tecla, with maybe Alfaro left out for either Torres or Svensson. Possibly McCrary could give way to Francis, but Schmetzer seems to rate McCrary. There’s been enough time for muscle recovery from Sunday’s match that Schmetzer can select any players fit enough to go.

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

CD Guadalajara from: Cota, Jimenez, Antonio Rodriguez, Antonio Torres, Aguayo, Alanis, Salcido, Pereira, Marin, Hernandez, Mayorga, Gurrola, Galindo, Pineda, Edson Torres, Lopez, Pizarro, Perez, Cervantes, Beltran, Oscar Macias, Pulido, Brizuela, Sandoval, Benitez, Carlos Cisneros, Basulto, Ronaldo Cisneros, Godinez, Jose Macias, Zaldivar.

Injury List
Sounders FC –
OUT: Morris (ACL), Alonso (quadriceps), Leerdam (ankle).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Victor Rodriguez (quadriceps).

CD Guadalajara –
OUT: Sanchez (undisclosed injury).

None suspended from either side. For the Sounders: Delem, Svensson, and Dempsey carry bookings forward into the Quarter-Finals. For the Chivas: Pulido and Godinez are also carrying bookings from the Round of 16. Any of the above listed who pick up a booking will be out next match.

Fun Fact
CD Guadalajara has only won this tournament once, in 1962 when it was the CONCACAF Champion’s Cup.