Back On Course
By MATT GASCHK
Sounders FC Insider
SEATTLE - The Sounders FC needed to break from their mini-slump that saw them score just one goal over the last two competitive matches while allowing four preventable goals.
It took some extra time, but the Sounders FC broke from their two-game skid and made their return to the CONCACAF Champions League group stage for the second straight year. The Sounders dominated the second leg of the preliminary round with San Francisco FC, but needed overtime to come away with a 2-0 win at CenturyLink Field to win the series 2-1 on aggregate.
“Sometimes when you get where the lucks turned against you, it seems you have to grind out a victory,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “I think we were the better team over the 120 minutes. We just had to grind it out.”
Seattle wasn’t going to leave CenturyLink Field without a win and came out of the locker room firing away. The Sounders outshot San Francisco FC 12-4 in the first half, 16-1 in the second half and 6-4 in the overtime, but San Francisco goalkeeper Miguel Torres held his ground with 11 saves on a busy night.
It wasn’t enough to keep Alvaro Fernandez from scoring in regulation time and Nate Jaqua scoring in overtime to advance the Sounders to the group stage.
However, it was Kasey Keller with an early save that provided the turning point of the match.
In the 12th minute, Roberto Brown headed a ball down to Rolando Algadona, who sent the ball toward the far post, but Keller was there to swat the effort clear and keep Seattle within striking distance in the early-going.
The Sounders got shot-after-shot, but it wasn’t until the 41st minute that they finally found the back of the net to go up 1-0 in the match and equalize the series.
Fredy Montero got the ball on the left side of the box and rolled it to the corner of the box for Leo Gonzalez, who strided into the corner and popped the ball across to Fernandez, who snapped a header to the net for the goal.
“I was getting a little bit disillusioned with one shot outside the box and then two headers, but the good thing about soccer is it gives those opportunities back to you,” Fernandez said.
Seattle continued to press for the decisive goal in the second half, but San Francisco returned to the shell that held the Sounders scoreless one week earlier in Panama. The tactic looked to be successful as Seattle’s chances were limited to longer range.
In the 81st minute, though, Jaqua got in behind the defense and found himself one-on-one with Torres, but Torres was able to make the stop and keep the game tight.
Jaqua would make up for the missed opportunity in overtime though.
Mauro Rosales led Fernandez up the left side and Fernandez turned to square up Torres before sending the ball across the box to Jaqua at the far post. Jaqua took a touch, then powered it past Torres for the 2-0 lead in the 98th minute.
“That was one I should have put away,” Jaqua said of his second-half miss. “When you get in there and get one a little bit early and aren't quite in the rhythm of the game. I think I got into the rhythm of the game a bit more as it wore on. It was nice to make up for that.”
After gaining the lead, the Sounders found themselves faced with a desperate San Francisco team that switched to a 4-3-3 to try to get the goal back. However, Keller and the Sounders defense held strong and finished with the clean sheet to get through to the group stage.
The Sounders will join Comunicaciones (Guatemala) and Monterrey (Mexico) in Group D. They will also add the winner of the series between Herediano (Costa Rica) and Alpha United (Guyana), where Herediano gained an 8-0 edge in the home leg of the series. The second leg will be played Wednesday night in Guyana.
Seattle will open the group stage at CenturyLink Field August 16 against Comunicaciones.
Sounders FC - Alvaro Fernandez (Leo Gonzalez, Fredy Montero) 41; Nate Jaqua (Alvaro Fernandez, Mauro Rosales) 98.
San Francisco FC - None.
Sounders FC - Osvaldo Alonso (caution) 60; Mauro Rosales (caution) 61; Erik Friberg (caution) 110; Kasey Keller (caution) 110.
San Francisco FC - Roberto Brown (caution) 45; Johan de Avila (caution) 63.
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jeff Parke, Zach Scott, Leo Gonzalez, Mauro Rosales, Osvaldo Alonso, Erik Friberg (Servando Carrasco 112), Alvaro Fernandez (Lamar Neagle 111), Pat Noonan (Nate Jaqua 68), Fredy Montero.
San Francisco FC - Miguel Torres, Rolando Algadona, Martin Gomez, Felipe Olivardia, Edgardo Panezo (Jefrey Diaz 102), Manuel Torres, Eybir Bonaga, Amir Waite (Freddy Arizala 85), Roberto Chen, Roberto Brown, Johan de Avila.