The Seattle Sounders scheduled a friendly with Club Tijuana hoping to get an early taste of what CONCAFAC Champions League will be like in the summer.
What played out tonight actually seemed more of a cross between CCL and the developmental USL, as the Sounders and Xolos mixed regular starters with deep reserves in a 2-2 draw at CenturyLink Field.
But even at that, the Sounders believe they got what they hoped for out of the evening, remembering that Champions League games also often feature alternative lineups because the tournament plays out amid the Major League Soccer season.
“When you get into those stretch of games you’ve got to rotate your squad a little bit,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “So it gives you an opportunity to step up to that level of competition, (and see) who can hold his own.”
Schmid cited Aaron Kovar, Cristian Roldan, Andy Rose and Oneil Fisher as non-regulars who stepped up against the Liga MX leaders. Lamar Neagle and Rose provided the Seattle goals, with two assists from Kovar and one from Roldan.
Seattle dominated the first 20 minutes, and broke ahead in the 11th minute on a Neagle header.
However, Tijuana equalized against the run of play in the 21st minute when Dayro Moreno found space behind the defense, banged a tightly angled shot against the far post and then returned an even more tightly angled rebound into the net.
Seven minutes later, the Xolos moved ahead, countering behind the Seattle defense with Moreno assisting Richard Ruiz.
Seattle substituted heavily in the second half, trying to keep the roster fresh for the club’s return to MLS play Saturday at FC Dallas.
One of those newcomers – Rose -- got the equalizer in the 57th minute, slipping behind the Tijuana defense.
“I think it’s a really good and smart choice by the club that we can get a taste before CONCACAF, a taste of what that might look like,” Kovar said. “I thought there were some younger guys who played awesome tonight, and in terms of squad rotation I’m sure they’ll be looking at some of us for that.”
The game was delayed about 20 minutes to accommodate a late-arriving crowd to due traffic troubles in Seattle. Final announced attendance was 39,115.
Final: Sounders 2, Club Tijuana 2.
Attendance: 39,115. (Actually, that's tickets sold. Looks like some didn't make it through the traffic.)
56' GOAL Seattle. Equalizer from Andy Rose. 2-2. Second assist for Kovar.
Second half: ... has begun. Correa, Lowe, Mansaray and Rose in for Seattle.
HT: Tijuana, 2-1. For 20 minutes, Xolos looked outmatched as any Sounders' opponent since PSA Elite. Then sprouted fangs.
Shots 7-4 SEA. On target, 3-1 TIJ. Corners, 3-0 SEA. Fouls 6-4 SEA.
29' GOAL Xolos. Breakaway behind the Sounders defense. Ruiz with assists to the Morenos. Tijuana, 2-1.21' GOAL Club Tijuana. If ever the phrase "against the run of play" was called for. Tightly angled rebound by Dayro Moreno. 1-1.
11' GOAL Sounders. Neagle header caps 10 minutes of absolute Seattle domination. Sounders, 1-0.
First five minutes: Almost fully in Sounders' attacking end. Best chance in 6th minute, Lamar Neagle header just over bar.
First kick: ... has been struck. Club Tijuana in red, while Sounders debut their new white kits.
Lots of empty seats, likely due to the traffic troubles tonight in Seattle.
Lineup: Well, we expected an interesting Sounders first 11, and we got one: Perkins; Fisher, Evans, Scott, Remick; Roldan, Azira, Pineda, Kovar; Neagle, Martins. Bench: Sounders bench: Frei, Lyon, Rose, Correa, Jones, Barrett, Ockford, Low, Mansaray.
Club Tijuana: GK Saucedo; D Ortiz, Chavez, Castro, Nunez; M Salas, Corona, Ruiz, Hauche; F (Alfredo) Moreno, (Dayro) Moreno.
Time change: The Sounders have announced that first kick has been moved back to 7:23 to allow extra time for fans due to multiple accidents and resulting traffic problems around downtown Seattle.
Here's the report from the club:
Seattle Sounders FC has announced that kickoff for tonight's international friendly vs. Club Tijuana has been pushed back to 7:23 p.m. PT due to several local traffic incidents, allowing fans extra time to arrive at CenturyLink Field. Sounders FC takes on Club Tijuana of Liga MX in an international friendly tonight on the Xbox Pitch at CenturyLink Field. The match is being broadcast live on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM and in Spanish on ESPN Deportes 1490 AM. Fans can also follow the action on Twitter via @LIVESounders and on SoundersFC.com.
Pregame: It is a cloudy but not currently rainy day at CenturyLink Field about two hours before Sounders FC's annual friendly, this time bringing in Liga MX leader Club Tijuana.
First kick is set for 7 p.m. There is no television or streaming. But the game can be head on the usual radio outlets. We'll also have updates and comments on Twitter @donruiztnt,
and we'll keep this blog going before, during and after the match.
Lineups could be interesting, as each team is expected to go with a mix of regulars and reserves.