The Seattle Sounders have made the trip south to Mexico in search of survival and chance to move a step closer to a CONCACAF Champions League title. It is a trip no MLS team has ever returned from triumphantly, but the Sounders look more than capable of making history.
The Sounders have taken a one-goal lead down to Torreon, Mexico, after posting a 2-1 victory in the first leg. They will be looking to become the first MLS team, make that the first-non Mexican team, to eliminate a Mexican club from the CONCACAF Champions League knockout rounds in its current format.
The task seems overwhelming on the surface. Seattle must hold off the team currently in first place in Mexico, the team that has scored the most goals in the Mexican League, in a stadium where they have yet to lose, in a competition that has never seen a Mexican team lose to a non-Mexican team in the knockout stages.
It almost seems downright impossible. At least if Seattle hadn’t already beaten Santos Laguna a week ago, and done so in thoroughly impressive fashion.
The Sounders will face a stiffer test in Torreon. Santos Laguna has an attack that is currently firing on all cylinders. Led by the forward tandem of Oribe Peralta and Herculez Gomez, as well as the playmaking of Mark Crosas, Santos has the weapons to punish Seattle's defense.
Seattle should be up for the challenge, and have experience winning in Mexico, having beaten a strong Monterrey side in group stage play last year. Tonight's test is much tougher though. They face an in-form team at home, though fatigue could be an issue for a Santos Laguna squad that played a match last weekend while the Sounders were off.
If the Sounders are going to pull off the upset, they will need their offense to find the team a road goal, and it will be up to the tandem of Mauro Rosales and Fredy Montero to create some more magic. They are likely to face a tougher Santos Laguna defense than the one they beat in Seattle, with Panamanian enforcer Felipe Baloy a good bet to play tonight after missing the first leg.
Seattle has plenty of reason to be confident considering how well they played in the first leg. The question is which of the Sounders' top players will step up with a star performance to help Seattle escape from Mexico with a result and a ticket to the Champions League semifinals?