After achieving its initial goal in CONCACAF Champions League, Seattle Sounders FC is now free to turn full attention to the Major League Soccer regular season.
Seattle reached that first goal Wednesday, when a 3-2 win at Marathon of Honduras clinched first place in group and advancement to the tournament quarterfinals next year.
“It’s tremendous,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “It’s a goal we set for ourselves”
The hope was not only to qualify, but also to qualify early enough in the competition to be able to devote full resources to the remaining six games of the MLS regular season.
The first of those – and perhaps the most important – is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, when San Jose visits Century-Link Field. The league-leading Earthquakes are nine points ahead of Seattle in the Supporters’ Shield race and the Western Conference standings.
A win by the Quakes would put them 12 points ahead of Seattle with only 15 more league points available to the Sounders. However, a win by the Sounders would cut the deficit to six points with a game in hand.
“It’s a six-point game against San Jose,” Schmid said. “We need to get three points here to put ourselves in serious contention for the Western division title and keep our distance from the Galaxy and the teams chasing up behind us, as well.”
Los Angeles and Real Salt Lake lurk two points behind Seattle in the West, with head-to-head matches remaining: RSL visits Seattle on Oct. 17, and the Sounders visit Los Angeles in the regular-season finale Oct. 28.
Seattle’s final CCL group match comes Oct. 24, and without needing a result to advance, the Sounders will be free to send their top lineup after what could be crucial points against the Galaxy.
“I think that was our goal coming down here,” midfielder Brad Evans said after the match at Marathon. “We don’t want to leave for the last game and leave it to chance.”
Evans prevented that by scoring the winner Wednesday, heading in a cross from Osvaldo Alonso.
“(Servando Carrasco) finds Ozzie, and I find myself with a little bit of space, rise a little bit above my defender, and put the header away,” Evans said. “For us: good confidence moving forward, and a good result.”
Seattle’s first two goals had come from Sammy Ochoa and Eddie Johnson. Marathon’s scores came on penalty kicks by Mario Berrios.firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8808 blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt