SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras - Thunder and lightning reined down around Estadio Olimpico as the Sounders FC faced CD Marathon in each team’s first match in the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League.
The game on the field matched the excitement from the sky, but it was Marathon that would have the final thunderclap, as the Honduran champions won 2-1 to earn an early advantage in Group C of the Champions League.
“I think early in the game we didn’t do well with the outside midfielders. We didn’t play with enough energy,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “In the last 25 minutes of the game we had very good energy, but for some reason at the beginning of the game we didn’t and we allowed Marathon to see an awful lot of the ball. When you let the opponent see the ball a lot it makes it awful hard to play. That’s something we need to do better.”
For the Sounders, it was their first competitive loss since July 4, a streak lasting nine matches.
Seattle had a lackluster start, but Roger Levesque put the Sounders up in the 17th minute with a blast from the top of the box. Fredy Montero picked off his defender, then cut a pass to Blaise Nkufo coming down the box. Nkufo touched it through to Levesque for a shot that beat Shane Orio for the 1-0 lead.
However, Marathon’s early energy paid off in the 27th minute when Randy Diamond came up the left side of the box and Orlin Paz knocked it through some traffic to get past Kasey Keller inside the left post for a goal to even the score at 1-1.
“James (Riley) got 2 or 3 v 1. That was probably that energy and it was just too easy,” Keller said. “We just didn’t react quick enough to them getting the ball into play and we paid the price for it.”
The back and forth battle continued through the rest of the first half and it looked like the 1-1 score would hold until halftime. But just as the game went into stoppage time, Tyrone Marshall chased after a bouncing ball into the box and collided with a Marathon attacker who was chasing down the ball.
“The penalty, I thought was a harsh call, but it is what it is,” Schmid said.
Nicolas Cardozo put the penalty away, crushing the ball down the middle while Keller dove to his right, giving Marathon a 2-1 lead with halftime just moments away.
In the second half, the game ran up and down the field and Seattle continued to earn scoring opportunities only to come up empty.
“In the second half, I think we had control of the game and dominated more of it and had four of five good chances, but obviously didn’t score,” Schmid said. “So we’re disappointed we didn’t come away with the win.”
Late in the game, Levesque fed Nate Jaqua for the games nearest of near misses. Levesque rolled the ball in to Jaqua from the left side and Jaqua lifted a shot over Orio from inside the six-yard box, but the shot went high and Marathon held on for the 2-1 victory.
“It never feels good to lose. It doesn’t matter where it is or what country it is,” Schmid said. “But we’ll learn from this. We’ll take a look at what we did well and what we didn’t do well. Marathon obviously did their job.”
Added Keller, “We never should have lost to this team. We’re a better team and we gave up two soft goals. In other times maybe we score three or four times and don’t concede the goals we conceded.”
Seattle’s next Champions League match comes Wednesday night at Qwest Field against Mexican side Monterrey. On Tuesday night, Monterrey topped Saprissa to give themselves the early edge in the Group C standings.
Sounders FC - Roger Levesque (Blaise Nkufo, Fredy Montero) 17.
CD Marathon - Orlin Paz (Randy Diamond) 27; Nicolas Cardozo (PK) 46+.
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, James Riley, Tyrone Marshall, Jeff Parke, Leo Gonzalez, Alvaro Fernandez (Mike Seamon 65), Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis, Roger Levesque (David Estrada 86), Fredy Montero, Blaise Nkufo (Nate Jaqua 68).
CD Marathon - Shane Orio, Astor Henriquez, Adolfo Machado, Erick Norales, Nicolas Cardozo, Hector Amarilla (Rony Flores 46), Randy Diamond (Carlos Mejia 69), Orvin Paz, Carlos Palacios, Milton Palacios (Luis Santamaria 77), Mario Berrios.