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March 7, 2012 at 1:06 AM

Sounders FC vs. Santos Laguna, CCL preview and prediction

santos laguna.jpgSounders FC vs. Santos Laguna of Mexico, first leg

Wednesday, March 7, 7 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.

TV: FOX Soccer (Mark Rogondino and Christopher Sullivan)

Radio: 97.3 KIRO-FM (Ross Fletcher)

Spanish radio: ESPN Deportes

Online stream: CCL website (with registration)

Referee: Walter Quesada, Costa Rica

* * *

KEY SANTOS LAGUNA PLAYERS

F Oribe Peralta — I’d be lying if I said I knew the Santos roster very well, but I’ll start with the guy that scored four goals in their last league game, a 5-2 win against San Luis. The 28-year-old also shares the team lead in CCL goals this tournament with four and with Carlos Darwin Quintero hurt, I think it’s a safe bet he’ll be the focal point up front.

M Daniel Luduena — Keep an eye on the talented Argentine, who’s fourth on the Santos’ all-time scoring list with 54 goals. Nicknamed “El Hachita,” the 29 year old has received mention from Seattle GM Adrian Hanauer and midfielder Mauro Rosales this past week, so he’s definitely on the Sounders’ radar.

GK Oswaldo Sanchez — Sure, he’s got history with Eddie Johnson, but the Santos captain also has a heckuva track record. He earned 99 caps with the Mexican national team and has been named Primera Division Goalkeeper of the Year three times among other awards. At 38 years old, he might be entering the twilight of his career, but you know how goalkeepers are.

KEY MATCHUPS

Santos possession vs. The Honey Badger — The Mexican style of play is typically more technical and possession-oriented than what you see in MLS. Santos Laguna fits into that mold and has a bevy of offensive weapons to lead the Primera Division with 16 goals in nine games. If anyone can bust up an attack, it’s Seattle’s two-time team MVP and midfield terror Osvaldo Alonso.

Fredy Montero vs. Aaron Galindo — The star Sounders FC forward was on fire in preseason and scored four goals in his last two games against Mexican teams, Atlante and Jaguares de Chiapas. The 6-foot Galindo has started nearly every game for Santos this season and I’m guessing he gets some of those defensive responsibilities.

Adrenaline vs. sharpness — No matter how big the CenturyLink Field crowd is, the Sounders are going to be amped up. But will the electricity in the stadium and the excitement to play a game that counts make up for not being in season form? Seattle’s got to keep the ball as best it can and make the most of its chances.

PREDICTION

The Sounders aren’t going to sneak up on Santos. Not in the quarterfinals and not after Seattle’s win in Monterrey last year. If the home side is going to advance, it’s going to have to play at it’s best, even if we aren’t sure what that is yet. The turf and cold weather are a couple advantages, not to mention a couple injuries to the Mexican side (Quintero and Rafael Figueroa).

Sigi Schmid and a couple players have mentioned not wanting to give up an important away goal, so I’m thinking the game might be a little tight to start. We all remember what happened the Sounders in the last two-game series (they lost 3-0 at Real Salt Lake in the first leg of the 2011 Western Conference semifinals).

I think the game will be competitive, but I expect Santos to be on the front foot. I’ll count on a couple big Michael Gspurning saves and maybe some late excitement…

Sounders FC 1, Santos Laguna 1

SAN — Christian Suarez (Juan Rodriguez) 67′

SEA — Fredy Montero (Christian Sivebaek) 88′

* * *

What do you think? Would you take a tie going into the second leg?

COMMENTS

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