What happens when soccer meets Vince McMahon?
Kasey Keller climbs his goalposts, leaps, and brings heavy smackdown on opposing strikers. Sigi runs onto the pitch and backhands the referee. Leo Gonzalez and Fredy Montero join forces for a wild, no-holds-barred, tag team throw down against the other teams midfielders.
CONCACAF Champions League is certainly not that out of control. Watch tomorrow’s match with those images, and everything else will seem relatively calm. Almost like an international friendly. Only a little more theatrically entertaining.
For the second straight year, Sounders FC qualified for the Group Stage of CONCACAF Champions League (CCL). Tomorrow is the Sounders first 2011 Group Stage match at CenturyLink Field against Comunicaciones from Guatemala.
The Sounders are hoping to use home field to their advantage as they begin Group Stage competition. One win would equal their total from 2010. Last year the Sounders earned one win, while losing five.
CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage is made up of 16 teams. Teams are divided into four groups, with four teams in each group. The top two teams from each group with the most points advance. Three points for a win, and one point for a draw. Teams play each other twice, with one at home and the other on the road. Seattle is in group D. Their grouping includes Comunicaciones from Guatemala, Herediano from Costa Rica, and for a second year in a row, Monterrey from Mexico. Monterrey are turning into Sounders Champions League rivals after two intensely fought matches in their Group Stage play last year. Monterrey are the defending CCL Champions.
How did the Sounders got here?
In their first two seasons in Major League Soccer, Sounders FC won back-to-back US Open Cup titles. Winning the domestic cup earns a play-in, or qualification spot for Champions League. Two-leg play-in matches were held in July. Seattle faced San Francisco FC from Panama. Losing the first leg in Panama 1-nil and winning the second leg at home 2-nil. It was an epic two-leg series. The deciding leg in Seattle went into extra-time. Lasting 120 minutes. Nate Jagua put home the winner in extra-time and Seattle held on for the win. With away goals being more valuable than home goals, the Sounders were never more than a mistake away from letting San Francisco slip by them. They prevailed and the reward is a second straight appearance in CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage.
Who is Comunicaciones?
Club Social y Deportivo Comunicaciones, is from Guatemala City, Guatemala. They play in Liga Nacional de Fútbol. Winning 24 league titles and 5 domestic cups, Comunicaciones has built a favorable reputation.
What differences are there between CONCACAF soccer and Major League Soccer?
Everything looks and feels different. Electronic advertising side boards around the pitch for Sounders MLS games are replaced with wooden side board advertising. No national anthems. Instead CONCACAF Champions League music plays. MLS referees are replaced by CONCACAF regional FIFA referees. These esthetic differences are not lost in the play on the field.
Players tend to embellish physical play more in Champions League to gain any slight advantage from the referee, or slow the tempo of the game. Some people call it cheating, diving, faking injury, etc. Others think of it as gamesmanship. I certainly do not support simulation (diving and faking injury) but soccer is a chess match. Timed well, a little simulated embellishment can slow another teams heavy attack. Allowing your teammates to catch their breath. Group Stage matches are not regular season league matches. These matches are for teams who have won league titles or domestic cups. So, a little theatrical expression should be expected. There is always enough room for soccer and entertainment to mix under the limelight.
The Sounders struggle a bit with embellishment and efforts to favor calls from referees. What they have responded well to is loud crowds cheering for them. They will have that. Fewer than at MLS matches, the noise volume will still be inspiring.
If Sounders stay focused on their tactical offensive game, without getting wrapped into tumble and fall stunts they can get a result against Comunicaciones. The more they learn to walk away from players who are barely bumped but show faces with the grimace of death. The more they can keep up attacking pressure. Then maybe with a little choreography, and few more rehearsals, the Sounders will even learn to use a bit of the gamesmanship used against them.
© 2011 Sales on Sounders by Ryan Sales