Sounders FC ready for soccer measuring stick

Mar 7, 2012, 6:56 AM | Updated: 8:20 am
Sounders forward David Estrada has been one of the most improved players during preseason games. (AP)

How good is your team? How good is your league? Seattle Sounders FC and Major League Soccer will get a good measuring stick over the next few weeks in the CONCACAF Champions League matches.

The Sounders host Santos Laguna of Mexico’s Premier League Wednesday night at CenturyLink Field. Kickoff is 7 p.m. on 97.3 KIRO FM. Ross Fletcher and Kasey Keller
describe the action.

This is one of the more important challenges Seattle’s soccer team has faced in the club’s short history. Sounders coach Sigi Schmid tried to convey the significance.

“It’s a good barometer of where our league is, and certainly an early season test for our team,” he said. “If you win [CONCACAF Champions League] you’re the best team from Canada all the way through Panama. That’s something pretty special.”

While not as popular as other Mexican powers like Club America and Chivas, Santos is certainly a talented, experienced team.

“A lot of their players have been with the club since 2007, and they have a great coach in Benjamin Galindo,” Schmid said. “They have a lot of talented guys with international caps on the Mexican team.”

One Seattle player who knows plenty about Santos is David Estrada. He was born in Mexico before moving to California and then starring at UCLA.

“It’s a very good team, and some of the players on Santos I look up to,” Estrada said. “One of the players is Daniel Luduena. They call him ‘el Hachita’ and he’s really good.”

Estrada has been one of the most improved players during Sounders preseason games. Part of his success is due to incredible fitness.

“My body fat is about four-and-a-half percent right now,” said Estrada, who is 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds. “I’ve worked on strength, and I try to stay away from junk food. I maybe eat it once a week.”

Estrada can tirelessly run all over the field. It’s his job is to be an energizer bunny and terrorize the opposing defense.

“Absolutely, I want to cause trouble to their back four and make them run,” he said. “That’s one of the things the coaches want me to do, and I’d be more than happy to do that.”

Schmid has an interesting decision to make Wednesday night. Newcomer Eddie Johnson appears to be over his hamstring injury and will likely play and possibly start against Santos. That could mean a temporary seat for Estrada.

The Sounders have sold nearly 19,000 tickets for the home segment of the two-game series. Santos hosts Seattle March 14. The winner is determined by aggregate score and advances to play either Toronto FC or LA Galaxy in the semifinals.

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