SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras -- Marathon and the Seattle Sounders are set to meet Wednesday in the group phase of the CONCACAF Champions League, renewing a rivalry that began when the two teams met at the same juncture of the competition's 2010 edition.
Having been paired together two years ago as well, you might expect some level of familiarity between the two clubs. But things can change quickly in CONCACAF.
With four transfer periods in between, the two sides are almost unrecognizable from the teams that battled unsuccessfully for a quarterfinal spot from Group C two campaigns ago.
In 2010, Marathon and Seattle were two teams with plenty of history on their side, just emerging onto the international scene.Marathon, a giant of Honduran football in decades past, was culminating the process of reclaiming its rightful place atop the national game after years of mediocrity preceded a run of titles late last decade.
Seattle, a historic American franchise in its own right, had moved up to MLS the previous season, triumphantly securing the U.S. Open Cup to earn the right to rub shoulders with the best of the best in the region in just its second year back in the U.S. top-flight.
Both found the going tough in the 2010 CCL, paired with regional giant and eventual champion Monterrey and Costa-Rican power Saprissa, an eventual semifinalist.The four-team group ended with Seattle and Marathon bringing up the rear.
Fast forward two seasons and things have changed across the board.Seattle and Marathon are now forces to be dealt with at the international level, with the Sounders making the CCL quarterfinals just last season.
The format of the group stage has changed as well.And with a three team pool from which Caledonia AIA has already been eliminated, the odds are 100 percent that one of these two old foes will find group phase success this year.
Yet to be decided is which of the two will move on, with a pair of matches between them still to be played, beginning with a showdown in San Pedro Sula on Wednesday night.The last time Seattle visited Honduras, Marathon overcame an early Roger Levesque goal to take all three points, 2-1.
The circumstances, like the times, are much different on this occasion, though.The Sounders won a pair of early group matches against Caledonia, putting them in the driver's seat in Group 4.With but one game disputed thus far, Marathon will still need a result Wednesday at home to ensure a chance to overtake the Sounders on the return leg, scheduled for October 24.
"Obviously it's a team that we played a couple years ago, so we know that," Sounders Coach Sigi Schmid told reporters on Monday, before the team embarked on a two-leg journey through Houston to San Pedro Sula."We're familiar with the stadium and the city and so forth because we've been there before."
Seattle's coach sees other similarities from the previous visit as well.After a rough spell early in the Honduran Clausura for the Green Monster, Uruguayan coach Manuel Keosseian -- who guided Marathon to the 2010 Clausura title in Honduras -- was brought back to the club in August replacing Ramon Maradiaga.
"The coach is the same coach they had in 2010, so they're pretty similar in terms of their playing style," Schmid noted.
Those, however, are about as deep as the similarities run between now and 2010.The rosters of both sides, for one, are nearly unrecognizable.For Marathon, only Mario Berrios started both that 2010 game in San Pedro Sula and the Green Monster's 2012 CCL opener in Trinidad.
Seattle offers a tinge more continuity, with forward Fredy Montero, midfielder Osvaldo Alonzo, plus defenders Jeff Parke and Leo Gonzalez among the key holdovers to also play a role in the series two years back.But goalscorer Levesque and Mike Fucito, who tallied twice for Seattle in the 2-0 return leg win that all but eliminated Marathon from the 2010 CCL, are gone.
Despite all the changes, though, there will be just a little more familiarity on the Seattle side on Wednesday.Honduran Olympian Mario Martinez -- on loan from cross town rival Real España -- returns home for the first time since joining the MLS squad this summer.
"Mario will be the star and the focus," Schmid joked."So the guys can just concentrate on the game and let Mario do all the press interviews."