The Concacaf Champions League draw Monday seemed to set a favorable path for reigning MLS Cup champion the Seattle Sounders. The Sounders have only one Liga MX team, Tigres UANL, on their side of the bracket, with the rest of the competition coming from less formidable leagues.
But Sounders general manager and president of soccer Garth Lagerway warns it is imperative to not overlook the clubs in front of them, including Round of 16 opponent CD Olimpia of Honduras.
The opponent isn’t all that unfamiliar with the Sounders, meeting Olimpia in the 2015-16 Concacaf Champions League group stage, winning 2-1 at home before falling 1-0 on the road.
This is the Sounders sixth appearance in the CCL.
“The reality is, there’s no easy games,” Lagerway said on the Concacaf Champions League post-draw show. “We played Olimpia just three years ago, and it’s an incredible stadium down there in Tegucigalpa and it’s a really difficult opponent. You’re going to be put away really quickly if you don’t take these things seriously. Especially for us, just starting preseason January 11, only having a couple weeks to prepare.”
There have been MLS teams burned by being unprepared or not taking opponents seriously enough. But Lagerway believes the veterans on the Sounders roster — who have competed in three MLS Cup finals in the last four years and the CCL three times in the last five years — have enough experience in high-stakes games to avoid letdowns.
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“I think our players are familiar with our opponents, they’re familiar with the tournament, they have big-game experience,” Lagerway said. “Those are the kind of things that can help us.”
Lagerway said the club was looking into spending some of preseason in Mexico to replicate Toronto FC’s preparations at altitude that aided them in a run to the 2018 Champions League final. But those plans might take a back seat based on the draw, with Tigres the first possible Liga MX opponent in the semifinals.
Lagerway also laid out the plan for how the Sounders will deal with the challenges of competing in two competitions at once, with a priority placed on the CCL.
“We’re going to put a strong team out for Champions League,” Lagerway said. “I do think we’re going to use some of our young players in these first couple months of the season, in particular. Hopefully they swim and they don’t sink and they’re able to help us with a little depth in our squad.”