SEATTLE - The omens were plentiful and dubious. The Sounders FC lost four straight matches to start the 2010-2011 CONCACAF Champions League and it looked like they would start 2011 the same way.
An early goal and a red card early in the second half at CenturyLink Field against Comunicaciones of Guatemala seemed to signal a similar fate but no matter how many signs were present, the Sounders FC were able to overlook them and persevered with a dominant close to the second half and a 4-1 win.
“In this tournament you have to win home games. It was nice to be able to start off the tournament at home,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “I thought our team showed a lot of character to come back again from 1-0. Being 1-1 and having a player ejected and playing a man down and being able to score two goals showed a little bit more.”
Mike Fucito had two goals and an assist, while Brad Evans a goal in his first competitive start since June 18. Seattle got their fourth goal on an own-goal to all but eliminate the memory of allowing a goal in the second minute and rocket out to a strong start in Group D in the Champions League.
In a hectic opening 15 minutes, Comunicaciones wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. Bryan Ordonez sped up the right side and crossed a ball to the box where only Jairo Arreola could get to it, heading it past Terry Boss for a 1-0 lead in the second minute.
It would be the only time they would beat Boss all night as the keeper finished with two saves and a hearty “Thank you” to Patrick Ianni, who cleared a ball off the line in the 80th minute that could brought the Guatemalan side right back into the match.
Seattle weathered the chaos, though and managed to get on the board themselves before halftime.
Fucito turned a corner kick to the near post where Evans nodded it off the crossbar and in for the equalizer in the 35th minute.
However, the Sounders weren’t yet through the storm.
In a match that featured nine cautions and two ejections, Lamar Neagle was the first to see red.
In the 55th minute he and Juan Marquez went after a ball at midfield. Marquez beat Neagle to it, but Neagle had already committed to a mighty swing, missing the already cleared ball and catching Marquez in the shin to draw an ejection.
Backed into a corner, Fucito and the Sounders exploded for two goals in the next 12 minutes to reclaim control of the match.
Fredy Montero rolled the ball into the box and Fucito charged to it, touched it around his defender and blasted a left-footed shot in the net for a 2-1 lead in the 61st minute.
In the 67th minute Alvaro Fernandez lifted a long pass to Fucito up the right side. He again took one touch and hammered a shot home to complete the brace and give Seattle a 3-1 lead.
“I thought at times our movement was good. That was something that we talked about at halftime - was making sure that we were moving off the ball because there were spells in the first half when we were getting decent looks and we knew the more movement, the more opportunities,” Fucito said. “I thought Fredy played a great ball and so did Flaco and I was able to get it and finish.”
In the 80th minute, the Sounders dodged a bullet when Ianni nearly knocked a cross in for an own goal, but tracked it down at the post and cleared it away. Comunicaciones persisted with another shot that was saved by Boss diving to his right for an incredible stop.
“It was definitely nice to be able to keep our focus and still come away with a win,” Boss said.
However, the dramatic series was not without controversy. Edgard Martinez, who was also at the post and had a good view of the ball, was sent off for abusive language, putting the teams back even at 10v10.
Seattle took advantage, as Fernandez and Mauro Rosales had a brilliant passing exchange that ended with Fernandez alone on the right side, looking to find Fucito at the far post. But his cross was redirected into the net by Rigoberto Gomez for an own goal and the match ended with that 4-1 score.
The Sounders will face the defending champions of the tournament, Monterrey, in Mexico on August 23. With their three points from the victory, they already matched their six-match group stage total from last year’s tournament.
Sounders FC - Brad Evans (Mike Fucito) 35; Mike Fucito (Fredy Montero, Alvaro Fernandez) 60; Mike Fucito (Alvaro Fernandez, Brad Evans) 68; Own goal (Rigoberto Gomez 87).
Comunicaciones - Jairo Arreola (Bryan Ordonez) 2.
Sounders FC - Patrick Ianni (caution) 16; James Riley (caution) 47+; Leo Gonzalez (caution) 54; Lamar Neagle (ejection) 55; Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (caution) 69.
Comunicaciones - Jairo Arreola (caution) 9; Carlos Castrillo (caution) 50; Adolfo Machado (caution) 60; Carlos Ramirez (caution) 69; Edgard Martinez (ejection) 80; Fredy Thompson (caution) 91+.
Sounders FC - Terry Boss, James Riley, Patrick Ianni (Roger Levesque 84), Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez (Zach Scott 75), Lamar Neagle, Servando Carrasco, Brad Evans, Alvaro Fernandez, Fredy Montero (Mauro Rosales 63), Mike Fucito.
Comunicaciones - Juan Paredes, Edgard Martinez, Erwin Morales, Carlos Castrillo, Adolfo Machado, Juan Marquez (Rigoberto Gomez 77), Fredy Thompson, Bryan Ordonez (Carlos Mejia 70), Carlos Ramirez, Transito Montepeque (Hernan Sandoval 78), Jairo Arreola.