Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sounders vs Santos, what's next?

So last week our Sounders beat Santos 2-1, with goals from David Estrada and Brad Evans. It was a big win and an important start. But but BUT that lone Santos goal does hurt. Because now Seattle has to go into a tough place to play in Torreon, Mexico, and the team with the most away goals is the tie-breaker. AKA if Santos wins 1-0 Wednesday, the series goes to them. HOWEVER, if Seattle wins, ties, or loses 3-2, 4-3, or another, higher scoring one goal game, then the Sounders would be the team to move on in the Champions League.

And if the match a week ago was any indication, that fate will hinge on the play of Fredy Montero. Montero looked entirely unlike the player Sounders fans saw in 2009, 2010, and 2011. He looked strong. He looked patient. He looked driven. He looked like a DP.

Where Montero, when faced with a double team, would often be beat in the past, losing possession, Montero simply played with the ball and defenders before passing the ball off to someone in a good position. When fouled hard on the way to the goal, Montero went on his best freight train impression and just kept on running. Fredy even made his way into the defensive half more than once throughout the match. And he challenged for the ball every time it was reasonable. He looked savy. Like he was finally ready to carry a team on his back. And this coming week, he will need to.

Because in the Mexican Primera, Santos Laguna is on top. They are the number one team, and their home grounds are a fortress. The number of points Santos scores at home would look more at home in baseball. To move on in the Champions League, Seattle is taking one of the most difficult paths possible. They will have to prove that the status quo has changed. That Mexico is not the bane to MLS sides that it once was., They will likely have to prove it in an emphatic way, either managing to stifle the Santos offense they did Monterrey less than a year ago or keep up with an offensive onslaught.

Seattle has a handful of advantages in this matchup. They left early to practice in Dallas to get more acclimated to the heat of Central America. They've been focused on Santos ever since the playoff loss to Salt Lake. And Seattle, sans perhaps Steve Zakuani, is as healthy a squad as could possibly be. Santos has a pair of important starters missing for this matchup, and they have played a league match since their last Seattle encounter, leaving a presumably winded starting 11.

But make no mistake about it; this is still a mountain for Seattle to climb. It will still be an upset and a surprise and a wonderful development in the american game. If it happens. And man oh man, do I hope it happens.

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