CCL Preview: Sounders look to open campaign with bang
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC vs CALEDONIA AIA
CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
Aug. 2, 2012 (Week 1)
10 p.m. ET (Fox Soccer)
Just five months after falling to Mexico's Santos Laguna in the quarterfinals, Sounders FC returns to the CONCACAF Champions League for the third time, qualifying for the tournament every eligible year since joining MLS. Seattle joins the LA Galaxy and Toronto FC as the only MLS clubs to participate in the CCL the past three seasons. Sounders FC is in group four alongside Caribbean champion Caledonia AIA and CD Marathòn of Honduras. The four-round group stage begins on August 2 and will conclude on October 24.
The winners of the eight three-team groups will advance to the knockout round where they will be ranked 1-8 based on their results from the Group Stage and paired accordingly. The quarterfinal round will be played in March of 2013. Seattle faced Marathòn in the 2010-11 Champions League, winning 2-0 at home and losing 2-1 on the road. The CONCACAF Champions League is open to the leading teams from federations throughout North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
Sounders FC Injury Report:
- OUT: FW Babayele Sodade (R knee ACL tear); FW David Estrada (L foot fracture)
- QUESTIONABLE: GK Andrew Weber (R adductor strain)
- PROBABLE: MF Steve Zakuani (R leg fracture); MF Cordell Cato (L knee MCL sprain)
About Caledonia AIA:
- Caledonia makes its first appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League after capturing the CFU Club Championship for the first time. The Malabar-based club edged fellow Trinidadian club W Connection on penalty kicks, 4-3, after tying 1-1 on June 21.
- It was the first Caribbean championship in the club's 32-year history. Caledonia captured three out of five domestic titles this year, winning the First Citizens Cup, FA Trophy and the Lucozade Sport Goal Shield.
- The club won six of their last eight league games and finished third in the 2011-12 TT Pro League with 38 points (12-7-2), just two points behind league champion W Connection. A strong offensive unit, they finished second with 34 goals scored and tiedthird with a plus-six goal advantage.
- Leading the attack against Seattle will be six-foot-two forward Jamal Gay, who scored seven goals in league play last season. Also returning for Caledonia are center backs Nuru Abdal lah Muhammad and Radanfah Abu Bakr, Guyanese wing back Walter Moore and international teammate goalkeeper Ronson Williams as well as Trinidad U-23 goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel.
- Making his first start for Caledonia in the Caribbean championships final, goalkeeper Samuel made a save in the fifth round of kicks to seal the title.
- The Men from Morvant will be without two of their main goalscorers from 2011-12 as midfielder Ataulla Guerra (seven goals) is recovering f rom a knee injury and leading scorer Devorn Jorsling (eight goals) recently returned to Defence Force, where he played from 2002-10.
- The club is coached by Jamaal Shabazz, who is also guiding the Guyanese national team in the third round of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
HIGHLIGHTS: COL 1, SEA 2
Sounders FC Fast Facts:
- Saturday's match at Colorado marked the first time that two goals were scored in the first three minutes of an MLS regular season game since May 24, 2007 (New York scored twice on Chicago)
- Eddie Johnson's goal in the second minute set the record for earliest goal in club history. The previous record was four minutes (three times; last: Lamar Neagle, 8/27/11 vs. CLB)
- Aside from Johnson (tied-sixth with nine goals) and Mauro Rosales (tied-seventh with seven assists), Fredy Montero ranks in the Top 10 in several categories, including shots (78; 3rd), shots on goal (27; T-5th), fouls committed (38; T-9th) and fouls suffered (47; 4th)
- Sounders FC is tied-first with San Jose with 11 goals scored between the 61st and 75th minute mark
- Seattle leads the league with just 225 shots against
- With Saturday's win, the team improved to 3-2-3 at altitude (at Salt Lake and Colorado), including three wins and one draw in the past four regular season visits
- Seattle's average home attendance this season is 39,537 - over 15,000 more than the next closest team and over one thousand more than Seattle's 2011 average (38,498)
All Around Alonso:
Osvaldo Alonso's game at Colorado exemplified why he is the team's two-time MVP. Alonso opened his 2012 MLS account with a 12-yard, left-footed volley to win the match in the second half. But the Cuban midfielder did so much more than netting the winner. Alonso had perhaps his strongest passing performance of the season with a game-high 81 successful passes to just eight unsuccessful. His previous season-high was 63 successful passes on May 23, which was one of five times this year that he has completed 60 successful passes. His completion percentage of 91-percent on Saturday was the second-highest of the season behind his 94-percent (60/64) at New York on July 15. The tenacious ballwinner also had 13 tackles with possession lost and three tackles won to go along with 12 recoveries, four clearances and two interceptions.
Power 5 Midfield Generals: Alonso on top
Alonso was named U.S. Open Cup Player of the Round for his semifinal performance against Chivas USA. Alonso scored a goal and assist as Seattle advanced to its fourth straight final. It is the second time the Cuban midfielder has been named Player of the Round by TheCup.us and a select panel of NASR members. Alonso previously earned the honor in the 2011 final against Chicago. He leads the club with four goals in the 2012 tournament.
Sounders FC turns up the heat in the summer, and the team will look to return to form with strong play from July forward. Over the past three seasons, Seattle has the best record in MLS starting July 1. Sounders FC has gone 28-10-11 in that time frame for a winning percentage of 68-percent, and has earned 10 victories in each of the past two seasons after July 1. Fredy Montero joins in on the fun as well with seven goals and four assists in 14 July games. This season Seattle is 1-0-2 so far in July.
Johnson Stays Hot:
- It took just 75 seconds for Eddie Johnson to score on Saturday – the fastest goal in club history – marking his 50th career MLS goal, ranking him 10th all-time among active players. Johnson's nine goals ranks sixth in MLS and his 0.50 goals per game ranks 10th. He has now scored five goals with one assist in his past six league outings and six tallies in his past eight games across all competitions. Johnson is the second-fastest player (18 games) in club history to hit the nine-goal mark (Fredy Montero – 15 games in 2009).
- Seattle's push to become more goal-dangerous in the air this season has already produced goals. Led by the athletic Johnson, Seattle has netted nine header goals in MLS this season – tied with DC United for second (San Jose – 17 header goals). Six of Johnson's nine goals have been headers, and he has scored four header goals in the past five games. The nine headers already surpassed the 2011 season total of eight header goals, and four of Seattle's five goals against the Rapids this season were headers.
Sounders FC CCL History:
- Each of Seattle's CCL qualifications have come by virtue of winning the US Open Cup. They first started CCL play in the 2010-2011 campaign, and qualified for the group stage with a 2-1 aggregate win over El Salvador's Isidro Metapan.
- The Sounders were drawn in a group with Mexican giants Monterrey, Honduran side Marathon and Costa RIca's Deportivo Saprissa. They could only manage a 2-0 win over Marathon, losing the rest of their group stage games and finishing last in the group.
- In the 2011-2012 campaign, the Sounders once again qualified for the group stages, defeating San Francisco FC from Panama 2-1 on aggregate.
- They faired considerably better in the group stage this time around. Drawn once more with Monterrey, plus Costa Rica's Herediano and Guatemala's Comunicaciones, the Sounders topped the group. Their signature win was a 1-0 win against a near-full strength Monterrey side on the road, becoming only the second MLS team to win in Mexico.
- Their luck ran out in the quarterfinals, though. After a 2-1 home win in the first leg, the Sounders were clobbered 6-1 by Santos Laguna in the return league, dashing any hopes at a title run.