MONTERREY, MEXICO - First it was Dallas. Now it’s Seattle’s turn.
Sounders FC picked up where Dallas left off last week as the Rave Green return stateside with U.S. soccer’s second victory on Mexican soil, and it came against reigning CONCACAF Champions League winners CF Monterrey.
Tuesday night’s 1-nil victory at Monterrey’s Estadio Tecnologico will be long remembered by Sounders FC.
Not only did Seattle earn a coveted victory south of the border, not only did they snap Monterrey’s 13-match unbeaten run in Champions League play, but Sounders FC are now in first place of Group D with six points through the first two rounds.
“To come into Monterrey and win gives our team confidence as we go into games in the future,” said head coach Sigi Schmid. “It means an awful lot for us because last year after two games we had zero points. This year after two games we have six points.”
Alvaro Fernandez put Seattle ahead in the first half after solid build-up play through the midfield. Pat Noonan took a pass from Servando Carrasco and slipped a through ball to Fernandez, who took one touch and finished to the upper corner.
“I believe it was Tyson who played me a ball kind of towards midfield. I was able to turn and found Nate checking in who did a good job of laying the ball off – it was great build-up,” said Noonan. “I think Flaco made a good behind run and I was able to spot him between two defenders. His first touch was great. That enabled him to get that shot off and he finished it very well.”
Fernandez has now scored twice in four Champions League appearances this year and he leads all Sounders with eight goals in all competitions.
But it was Seattle’s defense that stood out on the night, enduring 17 shots from Los Rayados.
Terry Boss stepped in net to make four saves and earn his first clean sheet of the tournament.
Boss continually denied the Monterrey attack, especially striker Aldo De Nigris, who harassed the keeper throughout the night.
Three minutes into the second half Humberto Suazo played a ball to De Nigris but Boss saved his sliding attempt. Just ten minutes later Boss jumped off his line and went to the ground to slide the ball away from De Nigris in the box.
“It was important for us to play to zero tonight because we felt it would give us a better chance,” said Schmid, especially after scoring twice at Monterrey last year only to fall, 3-2.
“I think the difference for us was that we have grown up a little bit as a team. We are more mature now. With the experience we had last year we know what to expect and we didn’t make silly mistakes because we have grown up a little bit.”
Sounders FC will test that maturity over the next week as they take on the Eastern Conference leaders Columbus Crew on Saturday and then host FC Dallas in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal on Tuesday.
But with the challenge comes great opportunity, and Sounders FC are ready to take full advantage.
“Bottom line: that’s what championship teams are made of,” said Brad Evans, who wore the captain’s armband tonight. “You win when it’s tough. You win when it’s easy. You win when you’re not supposed to.”