BY SPNW Staff 06:30AM 03/07/2012

Sounders Launch With Champions Test Vs. Santos

The visitors are a serious force in Mexican soccer, and the Sounders are serious about success in the CCL tournament, part of the ambition to become a world class club.

Cordell Cato (21), from Trinidad, is expected to add considerable athleticism to the Sounders' roster. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

MATCH: Club Santos Laguna (Mexican Premier League) at Seattle Sounders FCTYPE: CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal. WHEN: Wednesday, 7 p.m., Xbox Pitch at CenturyLink Field. MEETING: 1st. TV: Fox Soccer (401 on Comcast). RADIO: 97.3 KIRO FM. TICKETS: 800-745-3000

The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football — or CONCACAF — is the governing body for soccer in this region of the world. Its Champions League is a tournament that features the organization’s teams, and its winner advances to the FIFA Club World Cup.

By virtue of its success in the U.S. Open Cup — Sounders FC has won three in a row — Seattle is certified as among CONCACAF’s best and, thus, has a berth that began last year and continues with a quarterfinal match against Club Santos Laguna Wednesday at Century Link Field.

Sigi Schmid, Sounders Head Coach

As an illustration of how tough the competition is in CONCACAF, only two Major League Soccer teams — D.C. United in 1998 and the Sigi Schmid-coached L.A. Galaxy in 2000 — have won it, which is why Schmid this week described his team’s involvement as “huge.”

“It’s a really vital, crucial series and we expect our fans to come out,” said Schmid. “We’d love to see the place sell out. This isn’t an exhibition match. This is the real thing. MLS playoffs are important and we want to win the MLS Cup, but winning this (Champions League) would be phenomenal. It’d be the biggest thing that we’ve won.”

It would mark another step in the Sounders’ evolution into a club capable of competing on a global scale. The Mexican Premier League is ranked as the No. 12 league in the world.

“One of the goals we set out with early in the club’s existence was to play, compete and succeed internationally,” GM and part-owner Adrian Hanauer said.  “This is our one chance in true competition.”

Seattle will play Santos Laguna twice in the aggregat3-goal series, first Wednesday evening, and then in Torreon, Mexico March 14. The Sounders-Santos winner advances to the semifinals to face the winner of the other quarterfinal between the Galaxy and Toronto FC. The CONCACAF final will be held in mid-to-late April.

Santos Laguna is one of Mexico’s top teams. Santos finished fourth in the 2011 Apertura (winter tournament) and is fourth in the 2012 Clausura (summer tournament) with a 5-2-2 record. But Santos might have to play without striker Carlos Darwin Quintero, who suffered a torn thigh muscle in his left leg recently.

For the Sounders, most of the early attention will be centered on 27-year-old Eddie Johnson, whom Seattle acquired from Montreal in a trade that sent Mike Fucito and Lamar Neagle to the Canadian club. The Sounders are counting on Johnson to be a potent offense weapon along with Fredy Montero.

Fredy Montero, Leading Scorer

2011 REWIND: In their third year in MLS, the Sounders finished second in the Supporters’ Shield race, claimed their third consecutive U.S. Open Cup and advanced to the quarterfinals of the CCL. The Sounders also set another season attendance record. However, the Sounders suffered their third consecutive first-round MLS Cup playoff exit, at the hands of Real Salt Lake.

SOUNDERS FC STATS/NOTES: The club’s new faces for 2012 (whenacquired, how, former club) Michael Gspurning (Dec. 7: free agent, Skoda Xanthi); D Marc Burch (Dec. 12,  re-entry Stage 2, D.C. United);  D Adam Johansson (Dec.12, free agent, Göteborg); M Christian Sivebaek (Jan. 11, free agent, Midtjylland); D Andrew Duran (Jan. 12, SuperDraft); F Babayele Sodade (Jan. 12, SuperDraft); D Tim Pontius (Jan. 17: supplemental draft); M Andy Rose (Jan. 17, trade from Real Salt Lake); F Cordell Cato (Jan. 18: free agent, Defence Force FC); F Eddie Johnson (Feb. 17, trade from Montreal); G Andrew Weber (March 2, free agent) . . . The Sounders finished the preseason with a 5-0-2 record . . . Montero scored a team-high five preseason goals as Seattle outscored its opponents 19-4.

LAGUNA SANTOS STATS/NOTES: Santos Laguna represents the urban area of Comarca Laguneras (ninth largest metropolitan area in Mexico, between two states, Coahuila and Durango), made up of Torreón, Gomez Palacio, and Lerdo . . . Santos Laguna plays in the Primera División . . . Founded in 1982, Santos reached Mexico’s top tier in 1988-89 and has won three league championships, first in the Invierno 1996 tournament, second in the Verano 2001 tournament, and most recently in the Clausura 2008 tournament . . . Santos finished fourth in the 2011 Apertura, the first championship of the Mexican season (July 22-Nov. 6) . . . Santos is known familiarly as White and Green and Los Guerreros, or “The Warriors” . . . Santos Laguna plays at Estadio Nuevo Corona, a $100 million facility that holds 30,050 people . . . In 2011, Santos Laguna formed a partnership Celtic (Scottish Premier League), in which the clubs agreed to transfer knowledge on coaching, players, football academies and perhaps eventually swap first-team players.

COACH/MANAGER: Sigi Schmid became first head coach of Seattle Sounders FC Dec. 16, 2008, and is in his fourth year with the franchise. Born in Tübingen, Germany, Schmid relocated with his family to the U.S. in 1956, and to Torrance, CA., in 1962. He was a four-year starter at UCLA (1972-75) and graduated with a B.S. degree in economics in 1976.

Schmid later earned a M.A. in business administration from the Southern California. A certified public accountant, Schmid coached the Los Angeles Galaxy from 1999 through 2004, winning four major competitions: 2002 MLS Cup, 2002 MLS Supporters’ Shield, 2001 U.S. Open Cup and the 2001 CONCACAF Champions Cup. He coached the Columbus Crew from 2006-08, winning the MLS Cup in his final season.

In 2009, under Schmid’s direction, the Sounders became the first expansion team to reach the MLS playoffs since the 1998 Chicago Fire. The Sounders also won the U.S. Open Cup in Schmid’s first season. They added their second and third U.S. Open Cup titles in 2010 and 2011.

Benjamin Galindo: A former footballer for the Mexican national team and a participant in the 1994 World Cup, Galindo has managed Chivas (2004-05), Santos Laguna (2006), Cruz Azul (Au Tec), Cruz Azul (2008-09) and Atlas (2010-11).

COMING UP: The Sounders continue the second leg of CCL play against Santos March 14 in Torreon, Mexico, then return to Seattle to launch their MLS season against Toronto FC.

Seattle Sounders FC 2012 Schedule

Date Opponent Time TV W/L Score Rec.
3/7 *Santos 7:00 Fox Soccer
3/14 *Santos 5:00 Fox Soccer
3/17 ^Toronto FC 7:00 KING
3/23 Houston 7:00 NBCSN
3/31 San Jose 7:00 KING
4/7 at DC United 4:30 KING
4/14 Colorado 1:00 KING
4/28 at Chicago 5:30 KING
5/2 LA Galaxy 7:00 KING
5/5 Philadelphia 1:00 NBCSN
5/9 at FC Dallas 5:30 KING
5/12 Real SL 7:00 KING
5/19 at Vancouver 1:00 KING
5/23 Columbus 7:00 KING
5/26 at Chivas 7:30 KING
6/16 at Montreal 4:30 KING
6/20 Sport KC 7:00 KING
6/24 at Portland 2:00 ESPN
6/30 vs. New England 4:30 KING
7/4 at RSL 7:00 KING
7/7 Colorado 8:00 NBCSN
7/15 at New York 1:00 ESPN
7/18 RSL 8:00 NBCSN
7/28 at Colorado 6:00 KING
8/5 LA Galaxy 7:00 ESPN2
8/11 at San Jose 7:30 KING
8/18 Vancouver 1:00 KING
8/25 at Chivas 7:30 KING
9/2 at FC Dallas 4:00 KING
9/8 Chivas TBD KING
9/15 at Portland 12:30 NBC
9/23 San Jose 7:00 KING
9/29 at Vancouver 6:00 NBCSN
10/7 Portland 6:00 ESPN
10/21 FC Dallas 6:00 ESPN
10/28 at LA Galaxy 6:00 ESPN

*=CONCACAF; ^=Major League Soccer


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