History likes Santos, but Seattle has other edges in tonight’s Champions League quarterfinal

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When it comes to Major League Soccer clubs contesting sides from south of the U.S. border, cracking the Mexican code has proven darn near impossible.

The Seattle Times’ Joshua Mayers went spelunking through the files and dug up some eye-popping numbers: Since 2002, MLS teams have played 13 home-and-away series against Mexican opposition in CONCACAF tournaments, with just one lonely triumph to show. All of his good research is here.

The caveat to such daunting data is this: MLS sides have improved measurably over the 10-year course of his sample. And MLS wins over Mexican opposition in Champions League group play, while not exactly commonplace these days, no longer represent the milepost, headline makers they once did.  Still, the history is what it is, and it speaks volumes.

This is all relevant, of course, because the Seattle Sounders are in Torreon, Mexico, tonight to meet Santos in a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal second-leg. (8 ET, Fox Soccer and Telefutura)

The nervous nellies may see it like this: Santos is currently one of Mexico’s top teams, tied for top spot in Mexico’s 2012 Clausura.  U.S. international Herculez Gomez keeps scoring, and Los Guerreros are tough as Kevlar when playing home. Tie that into the intimidating numbers covering MLS-Mexican history and the Sounders prospects might seem a bit grim.

But the optimistic may see it like this: The Sounders hold 2-1 aggregate advantage heading into tonight’s second leg.  That means a tie would suffice, which points the poison arrow of pressure squarely at Santos.

Further, since the issue of rest is so topical in CCL matters, let’s point out that Sigi Schmid’s men have one significant head start in tonight’s race for a semifinal berth: they were idle over the weekend while Santos deployed most of its starters in claiming a Mexican league triumph.

Further-further, the Sounders have been terrific away from CenturyLink field, fashioning a 2-0-1 record during Champions League group stage last year. Seattle’s 9-3-5 road record was tops in MLS last year.

Comprehensive game notes from the Sounders can be found here.

The full MLSSoccer.com preview is here.