Club Tijuana will visit Seattle Sounders FC on Tuesday for a match that is part friendly, part trial run.
When summer rolls around, the Sounders will enter CONCACAF Champions League, and they know that clubs from Mexico will stand in the way of their goal of winning the regional tournament. So the club decided there could be value in getting an early taste of the best that Mexico has to offer.
“They are such a good team,” Sounders midfielder Gonzalo Pineda said. “A little new in the league, but they built a really good team. They have such good players, and they are doing really good right now in the Mexican League. They are a dangerous team for us, but we have to play it just to be prepared for the next Champions League.”
The Tijuana Xolos currently sit atop the Liga MX table with a 7-2-2 record. Their plus-nine goal differential is second behind Veracruz.
Pineda knows the Xolos and the league better than most. He is a native of Mexico City, spent a decade playing professionally in Mexico and has 32 appearances with the national team.
If there is a style of play that the other Sounders must learn, Pineda probably already knows it.
“This coach — Daniel Guzman — he wants to play a more tactic type of game, building from the back sometimes,” Pineda said. “But also they know how to play on turf because their stadium has some turf … so that’s not an advantage in this game. I think we have to be smart, and we have to be careful with their forwards because they are so fast.”
Both teams are expected to use lineups mixing regular starters and reserves. Both are juggling league play: Tijuana played Saturday, while the Sounders travel to Dallas this weekend. Some key players also are away on international duty, including Sounders forward Clint Dempsey and midfielder Marco Pappa. Several Sounders, such as midfielder Osvaldo Alonso and defenders Tyrone Mears and Chad Marshall, are in various phases of recovery from injury and could be rested or eased back into action.
“It’s going to be a good test for us,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “We get a chance to see again how a team from that part of the world plays, in terms of Mexican teams. And even Central American teams are a little different, so it’s a good thing to put in the back of our heads as we approach Champions League in August. It’s also a good thing because we need to test some guys under the first of that type of competition so we’ll know who can step up, because you’ve got to start rotating your team when you’re playing games in Champions League and MLS.”