PANAMA CITY, Panama - The CONCACAF Champions League requires a lot of adjusting as clubs play in foreign lands to determine the top club in the North and Central American region.
On a muggy, wet field at Estadio Rommel Fernandez, the Sounders FC was unable to utilize their speed to their advantage and were slowed to a 1-0 defeat to San Francisco FC in the first leg of the preliminary round aggregate-goal series.
“It’s 1-0 at halftime. It’s important for us to come back and win this thing at home and it’s great preparation for the MLS playoffs,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “We have got to show our ability to come back and score some goals.”
Roberto Brown converted a 28th minute penalty after Jeff Parke was called for a handball in the box and that proved to be the difference in the game as San Francisco FC bogged down their defensive box to prevent Seattle from getting shots from within the penalty box.
The Sounders got plenty of crosses into the box, particularly from midfielder Mauro Rosales, but couldn’t convert those crosses into goal-scoring chances.
Seattle held much of the run of play throughout the match and they looked in control in the match’s opening minutes. Rosales got several balls into the box in the first 25 minutes and Erik Friberg found Fredy Montero for a header in the 13th minute, but Seattle’s top scorer missed just outside the near post on his best opportunity of the night.
Later, he would get a few shots from distance, but none on frame, as the slow turf limited his creativity with the ball.
In the 26th minute, Brown got the ball into the box and Parke slipped on the grass. He reached down his right hand to brace his fall, and it got a piece of the ball, giving the home side the penalty.
Kasey Keller dove to his right while Brown shot hard to Keller’s left to give San Francisco the 1-0 lead.
Outside of that, it was a well-defended match by the Sounders FC with no breakdowns that couldn’t be covered by Keller’s goalkeeping, as he finished with three saves in the losing effort.
Twice after the 80th minute, Seattle had chances in the box, but a Pat Noonan header found the post and Mike Fucito had his shot deflected. On both, Seattle got a touch to the rebound, but couldn’t solve goalkeeper Eric Hughes and they finished with a 1-0 defeat.
“We had our chances. We played well defensively and we made a mistake and they made us pay for it,” Noonan said. “Fortunately for us we are at halftime. We are very confident we are going to go in and get the result back in Seattle. We are still very confident.”
The Sounders will have the chance to come back in the return leg August 3 at CenturyLink Field on the turf that is much more conducive to their speed. In the meantime, they will fly to Houston Wednesday, where they will face the Houston Dynamo on Saturday at Robertson Stadium.
Sounders FC - None.
San Francisco FC - Roberto Brown (PK) 27.
Sounders FC - James Riley (caution) 25; Osvaldo Alonso (caution) 70; Alvaro Fernandez (caution) 78.
San Francisco FC - Roberto Brown (caution) 17; Edgardo Panezo (caution) 73.
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez, Mauro Rosales, Osvaldo Alonso, Erik Friberg (Pat Noonan 75), Lamar Neagle (Alvaro Fernandez 59), Fredy Montero, Roger Levesque (Mike Fucito 59).
San Francisco FC - Eric Hughes, Rolando Algadona, Martin Gomez, Felipe Olivardia, Roberto Chen, Manuel Torres, Eybir Bonaga, Eduardo Jimenez (Edgardo Panezo 44), Amir Waite, Johan De Avila (Jose Garces 71), Roberto Brown (Jefrey Diaz 80).