Neither does Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, even though Caledonia is his club’s opponent when it opens CONCACAF Champions League group play tonight at CenturyLink Field.
“They’re probably (the CCL opponent) that we’re going into the most blind because they are not in their season yet,” Schmid said. “They are in their preseason; they haven’t really played games. They’ve changed their roster, so they’ve got different personnel than they had. We’ve seen certain clips of past games that they’ve played, but a lot of those are with players that aren’t on the team right now. So we’re in the midst of gathering information.”
In that quest, the Sounders have turned to some of the same resources available to casual fans: the Internet, YouTube, word of mouth.
One person who can’t provide much help is Cato, a 20-year-old who joined the Sounders from Carenage, Trinidad, and played for a pair of clubs there: Defence Force FC and San Juan Jabloteh.
“They’re from my homeland,” he said. “I really don’t know much about them – just a couple of players on their team. They did win some of the cups in the local league back home, so that’s about it.”
Caledonia qualified for its first Champions League appearance by winning the 2012 Caribbean Football Union Club Champions Cup. This year, it won three out of five domestic titles: the First Citizens Cup, the FA Trophy and the Lucozade Sport Goal Shield.
The club was founded in 1979 in the city of Malabar. It won the Trinidad and Tobago Cup in 2008.
“(In Trinidad) the main thing is you try to keep the ball, you try to pass the ball, maintain possession and build from there,” Cato said. “Definitely, they’re going to try that. As I said, I don’t know much about the team. They’re just from my home, but I’m going to be as new to the team as everybody else.”
One thing the Sounders know for sure is that every game in group play has heightened importance in this competition. Under a reworked format, the 2012-13 CCL begins with eight three-team groups, with each club playing the other home and away. After those four games, only the top finisher in each group will move through to the quarterfinals.
This is the Sounders’ third CCL appearance. In their first try, they didn’t get out of group stage. Last season, they made it to the quarterfinals, where they were eliminated by Santos Laguna of Mexico.
“If you look at last year … certainly the win at home was a good confidence-booster for us, and the game down there was a big learning experience for us as well,” Schmid said. “But if we could have gotten past that game, matched up with Toronto, gotten to the final, that would have been a huge thing for our club. So this is the beginning of that journey, and being recognized in our region is very important for our league as well.”
Honduran midfielder Mario Martinez will join the Sounders on loan from Real España. Martinez, 23, is playing for Honduras in the ongoing London Olympics. He also participated in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He will join the Sounders after the Olympics and will be added to the roster pending receipt of his P-1 visa. … Sounders Women defender Stephanie Cox of Gig Harbor will join the University of Puget Sound women’s soccer coaching staff as an assistant. Cox, who has 81 caps with the U.S. national team, said the announcement does not indicate an end to her playing career.
CALEDONIA AIA (TRINIDAD & TOBAGO) AT SOUNDERS FC (USA)
7 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: Fox Soccer. RADIO: 97.3-FM, 99.3-FM (Spanish)
HEAD TO HEAD: First meeting.
NOTES: This is each team’s first match in the group stage of CONCACAF Champions League. The other club in Group 4 is Marathon of Honduras. Each team will play the other two in the group, home and away, with the eight group winners advancing to the knockout round. … This is Caledonia’s first CCL appearance in its 32-year history. This is Seattle’s third CCL appearance in its four-year history. The Sounders did not advance out of group play in 2010-11, and were eliminated by Santos Laguna of Mexico in the 2011-12 quarterfinals. … Seattle qualified by winning the 2011 U.S. Open Cup; Caledonia by winning the Caribbean Football Union Club Champions Cup. … Caledonia is led by Jamal Gay, a 6-foot-2 forward, who scored seven goals in league play last season. Goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel played for the Trinidad U-23 team. Center backs Nuru Abdullah Muhammad and Radanfah Abu Bakr return from the club that went 12-7-2 in the 2011-12 TT Pro League, scoring 34 goals. The club is coached by Jamaal Shabazz, who also coaches the Guyanese national team. … Plenty of tickets are available.
QUOTABLE: “Last year we went to the quarterfinals, and unfortunately that’s where we exit. But this year, we’re tying to go to the finals.” – Sounders midfielder Cordell Cato, a native of Trinidad.
NEXT: The Sounders next CCL match is Aug. 30 at Caledonia. Seattle returns to Major League Soccer play at 6 p.m. Sunday, meeting Los Angeles at CenturyLink Field.email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8808 blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt