SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador - Even in the Sounders FC’s second season, they still find themselves creating new history for the club.
Tuesday night that history was made at San Salvador’s Estadio Cuscatlan, where a 1-1 draw with Isidro Metapan advanced the Sounders FC to the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Seattle conceded a goal early on a header from Anel Canales, but got a dramatic response from newcomer Alvaro Fernandez in the 74th minute to propel them to the draw and the 2-1 win on aggregate after the Sounders topped Metapan 1-0 at Qwest Field last week.
“It’s tremendous. They are part of the first group to get into the CONCACAF play. Now we’ve got to finish in the top two of the group stage,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “It means a tremendous amount to the organization.”
Metapan dominated play in the early going and capitalized on some open space in the back to get the 17th minute goal. Paolo Suarez got to the endline and chipped a cross to Canales unmarked in the middle of the box for a far-post header past a defenseless Kasey Keller.
“We fell asleep a little bit. The one guy who was going to head the ball in for them, we didn’t mark,” Keller said. “Those kinds of things do happen, but I was happy with the response. The panic stations didn’t happen and in the end, I didn’t have a whole lot to do.”
With Fredy Montero’s goal in the first leg, that left the aggregate score tied at 1-1, with both teams scoring on home soil.
As the match wore on, the slow, muddy pitch got slower and muckier, but the Sounders maintained composure and possession. After the halftime break, both teams came out on the attack, looking to break the tie.
Osvaldo Alonso fired a shot from 25 yards out in the 53rd minute and Metapan goalkeeper Jose Luis Gonzalez got in front of it to make the stop. However, the rebound spilled to Roger Levesque, who pounced on the ball and put it in the back of the net. However, the Sounders forward was flagged offside and the 1-0 score held.
Not for long though.
In the 64th minute, Schmid looked to his bench and brought on the fresh legs of Fernandez and Nate Jaqua.
It didn’t take long for the moves to pay off, as Fernandez opened his Sounders FC account with a fantastic header in the 74th minute.
Alonso collected a ball in the middle of the field and pushed it outside to an oncoming James Riley. The Sounders defender twisted the ball into the box, where Fernandez snapped a header inside the near post for the equalizer and his first goal in a Sounders uniform.
“He’s a player who doesn’t look like an aerial presence, but he is very good in the air,” Schmid said. “It was an excellent cross by James and a good snap-header. For him to have that impact in the second game is great.”
Fernandez came on for 20 minutes in Seattle’s 1-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, but the Uruguayan midfielder has only seen two full training sessions since joining the team last Wednesday.
“Since I’ve gotten here, the team has treated me fantastically. I feel like I’m part of the team even though I’ve only been here for a week,” Fernandez said. “The goal was a complete team effort. It was great to get one under my belt. It was a great team effort today.”
Seattle held on in the final minutes and celebrated with the group of 20 supporters who had traveled to San Salvador for the match. Keller finished the night with four saves to help the Sounders FC advance.
Seattle joins Group C of the Champions League and will play on the road August 19th against the winner of the Marathon-Tauro preliminary round matchup, meaning a trip to either Honduras or Panama. They will play at Qwest Field the following week against Monterrey from Mexico. The fourth team in the group is Saprissa from Costa Rica.
In MLS play, the Sounders will host the Houston Dynamo Sunday at Qwest Field. Seattle will be looking to extend their four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1) in league play, a streak that lasts seven matches (5-0-2) in all competitions.
Sounders FC - Alvaro Fernandez (James Riley, Osvaldo Alonso) 74.
Metapan - Anel Canales (Paolo Suarez) 17.
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, James Riley, Patrick Ianni, Tyrone Marshall, Leo Gonzalez, Sanna Nyassi (Nate Jaqua 64), Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis, Steve Zakuani (Alvaro Fernandez 64), Fredy Montero, Roger Levesque (Michael Seamon 84).
Metapan - Jose Luis Gonzalez, Ricardo Alvarado (Cesar Larios 80), Erick Prado, Ernesto Aquino, Oscar Jimenez (Andres Flores 87), Hector Mejia, Emerson Umana (Lester Blanco 72), Rodolfo Suarez, Anel Canales, Josue Flores, Milton Molina.