SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - When the Sounders FC faced Saprissa on Tuesday night it was supposed to be a homecoming for Leo Gonzalez.
That celebration was cut short when the Costa Rican national team defender was sent off with a red card in the 38th minute of the CONCACAF Champions League match at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa and the home side took advantage with two second half goals while playing up a man and the Sounders fell 2-0 in their effort for their first points in the Champions League group stage.
Seattle was not without chances though, and they took the ball to Saprissa from the opening kick.
Sanna Nyassi found Roger Levesque with a cross in the fourth minute, but his header went wide. However, that set the tone for the first half, as Seattle garnered chance after chance but bore no fruit.
In the 38th minute, the game changed. While chasing down a ball in the offensive half, Gonzalez raised his foot to knock down a ball that had gotten free on the Seattle attack. However, his boot caught Jairo Arrieta in the thigh and Gonzalez was issued a red card.
Even playing down a man, Seattle was able to work out a scoring opportunity just before the halftime whistle. Steve Zakuani took off up the left side and carried it into the box before three Saprissa defenders slowed him down on his run of two-thirds the length of the field and he wasn’t able to generate a dangerous shot and the game went into the half 0-0.
Saprissa finally got on the board in the 56th minute when David Guzman found some space at the top of the box and blasted it inside the far post for a 1-0 lead.
Fortune looked like it would smile on Seattle in the 67th minute though when Fredy Montero was taken down in the box and the Sounders were awarded a penalty. However, Saprissa goalkeeper Fausto Gonzalez dove to his right and stopped Osvaldo Alonso’s game-tying attempt for one of his three saves on the night.
The Sounders continued to press though and were looking for the equalizer when Saprissa caught them on the counterattack in the 82nd minute, finding second-half sub Allan Aleman all alone for a one-on-one opportunity with Terry Boss. Aleman got the ball past Boss and lifted Saprissa to a 2-0 lead in the game’s waning moments.
Seattle fell to 0-3-0 in CONCACAF group stage, at the bottom of Group C. Saprissa meanwhile, secured sole possession of second place at 2-1-0 with the victory.
The Sounders FC’s next CCL match comes next Wednesday against Group C leading Monterrey. Seattle will travel to Mexico for their fourth group stage match.
First, though, they return to MLS action Saturday night against the Columbus Crew at Crew Stadium. Seattle will look to improve on their fifth place standing in the Western Conference. They are 5-1-3 in their last nine MLS matches.
Sounders FC - None.
Saprissa - David Guzman (Paniagua) 56; Allan Aleman (Josue Martinez) 82.
Sounders FC - Terry Boss, Zach Scott, Taylor Graham, Tyrone Marshall, Leo Gonzalez, Sanna Nyassi, Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis (Alvaro Fernandez 64), Steve Zakuani (Tyson Wahl 46), Fredy Montero, Roger Levesque (Mike Fucito 72).
Saprissa - Fausto Gonzalez, Gabriel Badilla, Victor Cordero, Ricardo Blanco, Josue Martinez (Jose Mena 46), Walter Centeno, Jose Luis Lopez (David Guzman 73), Fernando Paniagua, Esteban Sirias, Armando Alonso (Allan Aleman 63), Jairo Arrieta.