CONCACAF Gold Cup a scouting bonanza for Sounders

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comJuly 11, 2013 

Seattle Sounders FC regularly scouts the world for soccer talent.

This week, the international talent has come to Seattle.

Sounders coach Sigi Schmid was part of a club delegation that traveled to Portland on Tuesday to watch the CONCACAF Gold Cup doubleheader there. And more Sounders eyeballs will be focused Thursday on CenturyLink Field, where the Gold Cup continues with matches pairing Panama and Martinique at 5:30 p.m., followed by Canada and Mexico at 8 p.m.

“It helps us in our scouting for sure,” Sounders sporting director Chris Henderson said. “We love having as many games up here as possible, and it’s real easy to go see the games. Obviously, this week in Portland and Seattle we can see four games … and it’s a lot of players that we can see pretty easily.”

Another advantage to having four CONCACAF nations playing on the Sounders’ home pitch is that it increases the number of first-hand opinions available to the club.

“I always love when coaches can scout because you get a different perspective; sharing the ideas, seeing a player with more than one eye always helps,” Henderson said. “You can bounce ideas off each other and get different opinions.”

Panama has one player who already has gotten a close look: central defender Roberto Chen, who trained with the Sounders last month before leaving to join the national team and rejoin his club – San Francisco FC of La Chorrera, Panama.

Although Chen left Seattle without a contract, Schmid was impressed with the way he trained.

“It was good for us to get a look at him and get to know him as a person,” Schmid said at the time.

Of course, the Gold Cup is more than a scouting opportunity. It is the tournament that every two years determines the national team champion for North America, Central American and the Caribbean.

The tournament includes 16 teams, divided into four groups. After each team plays the other three in its group, 12 teams will advance to the knockout rounds.

The eventual winner will face the 2015 winner for the right to play in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.

Mexico – the top-seeded nation in CONCACAF – opened with a 2-1 loss to Panama, while Canada suffered a 1-0 loss to Martinique.

That sets up the Seattle games as winner-against-winner and loser-against-loser matches, which increases the pressure on both teams in the nightcap.

“I’m not saying motivation was needed, but it’s a fabulous stadium here in Seattle,” Canada coach Colin Miller said. “I’m sure there will be a huge crowd again. There also will be a huge Canadian following, we’re hoping. So the motivational side of things wasn’t required.”

ROSE CITY STARS

Jeld-Wen Field in Portland will be the site of the 2014 Major League Soccer All-Star game, the league announced Wednesday.

The game matching top MLS players against an international club will be held in late July or early August and will culminate several days of festivities in the Rose City.

“We are very pleased to host the national and international soccer community to Soccer City USA,” Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson said in a press release. “The Timbers and our fans look forward to showcasing our fabulous city and Jeld-Wen Field next summer.”

This year’s game will be played at 6 p.m. July 31 at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., where the MLS All-Star team will face AS Roma.

Seattle has never hosted an MLS All-Star game, and Sounders owner Joe Roth has said the team is not interested in doing so. He says Sounders fans don’t like friendlies and prefer meaningful competition.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt

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