With morale high after getting their ticket to the tournament playoffs, Pumas will seek their first title in 11 years and in the process extend the dominance of Mexican clubs in the region this Wednesday, when they visit the Seattle Sounders for the League final. of CONCACAF Champions.
Using an alternate cadre and several youngsters, the Universitarios defeated leader Pachuca on Sunday to secure their place in reclassification, but there was little time to celebrate as they immediately turned their focus to Seattle.
Pumas let go of a two-goal lead in the first leg and the matchup was tied 2-2. Seattle has in favor that it will close at Lumen Field, a stage where the noisy support of the fans usually weighs. This Wednesday will be no different: more than 61,000 tickets have already been sold.
“I see a team that continues to believe and the goal is to win the final,” said defender Efraín Velarde, the survivor of the last Pumas team that was champion, in the Clausura 2011. “You don’t have this opportunity every day. There are very long races that do not have the opportunity to play a final. Now that it is in our hands, we will try to make the most of it”.
Pumas was strengthened by the return of its striker Juan Dinenno, who scored a brace in the first leg and repeated the dose to Pachuca over the weekend. In addition, the university team recovers its defender Arturo Ortiz, who missed the first leg due to suspension.
The only question is winger Alan Mozo, who injured his knee against Seattle and missed the game against Pachuca. Mozo did not train in Seattle and everything seems to indicate that he will not play, although the team said that he will decide at the time of the game.
“As a team we are in an important moment to show the hierarchy, we don’t feel pressure”, said Dinenno.
Pumas has managed to stay alive in two tournaments despite having one of the lowest payrolls in Mexican soccer.
“We as a group think that names don’t play, only men, that’s the mentality that has helped us move forward,” said midfielder Leonel López.
Much of the credit goes to Argentine coach Andrés Lillini, who has qualified the team to a league final and semi-finals in the previous tournament.
But Lillini knows that the institution urgently needs a title due to the long drought.
“There are many hopes, but we know that it is a golden opportunity and we don’t want to let it pass”, said Lillini. “We are facing a very difficult rival on their field, we have that in mind, but the opportunity is unique and we are prepared to face it”.
Pumas is playing its first regional final since 2005, when they lost to Saprissa of Costa Rica.
That was the last time a Mexican team did not walk away with the CONCACAF champion trophy, a streak of 16 years that seems to be in danger.
“What you say about the rivalry between Liga MX and MLS is not something that interests us, what interests us is to leave the institution where it should be,” Dinenno added. “We do not see it seasoned by that situation that has nothing to do with us.”
Seattle is seeking to be the first MLS team to win the CONCACAF crown since the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2000, and the first in the league to qualify for a Club World Cup.
The Sounders think they could sell even more tickets for the game. They could break the record for the highest attendance in the tournament. The same corresponds to the 66,208 that América de México summoned when receiving Herediano de Costa Rica in the semifinals of the 2014-15 edition.
“When they play at home we know that the public makes themselves felt, that their fans have great development in the game, the stadium is impressive, but we have to abstract from those things”, added Lillini.
Seattle hasn’t seen this many people since the 2019 MLS final against Toronto FC, when 69,274 spectators watched the game.
“It’s going to be a great game, we talked about it in the video session and we look back on 2019 because some say Toronto played better than us in the first half,” coach Brian Schmetzer said. “You felt the pressure, but that helps us prepare for this game because the team was very anxious, ready to win, win, win and we didn’t play to our potential.”