Road To The Quarterfinals

A path that started back in October 2010 has the Sounders FC squaring off with Santos Laguna in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal.

Clear back in October of 2010, the Sounders FC punched their ticket into the 2011-2012 Champions League when they won their second straight US Open Cup crown over the Columbus Crew at CenturyLink Field.  Now, 17 months and eight matches later, they are playing in the quarterfinals, a mere six matches away from a spot in the FIFA Club World Cup tournament.

Over the last year and a half, the club has had several memorable moments on the long path to their quarterfinal meeting with Santos Laguna, beginning Wednesday night at CenturyLink Field.

After earning a berth in the tournament with their Open Cup win, the Sounders were joined by MLS clubs the LA Galaxy (Supporters’ Shield), Toronto FC (Canadian Championship), Colorado Rapids (MLS Cup) and FC Dallas (MLS Cup runner up).  Seattle opened the tournament in the preliminary round against San Francisco FC, the champions of Panama’s Clausura.

After falling behind 1-0 in the aggregate-goal series in Panama City, the Sounders needed to win by two goals to advance.  Alvaro Fernandez equalized the series in the first half and that 1-1 score held through regulation time, but the Sounders weren’t to be denied.  Just eight minutes into the overtime period Nate Jaqua powered the go-ahead goal and the Sounders held on for the final 22 minutes and advanced to the group stage with a 2-1 aggregate goal win. (Highlights)

With the win, the Sounders were put into a group with the defending CCL champions, Monterrey from Mexico, along with Guatemalan champions Comunicaciones and Costa Rican side Herediano.

Seattle would open the group stage at home against Comunicaciones, looking to get out to a strong start in the group stage after going winless in the first four matches of the 2010 tournament.

That prospect didn’t look bright when Comunicaciones scored in the second minute of the August 16th match at CenturyLink Field.  But Seattle quickly bounced back on the boots of Mike Fucito.  The speedy forward assisted on a Brad Evans goal in the 35th minute, then added two of his own in the second half before an own-goal capped a 4-1 victory for the Sounders FC, setting the tone for the rest of the CCL tournament for Seattle. (Highlights)

They would follow that up with a pivotal match in Monterrey, Mexico.

One year earlier, they took a 2-0 lead over the Mexican powerhouses, only to see it all slip away in five minutes, allowing three goals and losing a chance to become the first US club to win in Mexico.

That title went to FC Dallas, who just one week before the Sounders took to Monterrey in 2011 topped UNAM Pumas 1-0 in Mexico City.

While they could no longer be the first to achieve that feat, the Sounders were determined to make up for their defeat in 2010.  With a win under their belt, they were brimming with confidence, though Sigi Schmid didn’t bring many of his starters with him to Monterrey.

It was no bother for the Sounders though, who expertly employed Schmid’s game-plan and got a first-half goal from Alvaro Fernandez, then held off the Monterrey to post a clean sheet in a 1-0 victory, giving the club a signature win in the club’s history and six points in the standings. (Highlights)

The Sounders carried that momentum into the third match against Herediano and Fredy Montero powered them to a 2-1 win with a brace, giving Seattle sturdy positioning atop the group table.  A loss to Herediano one week later at CenturyLink Field couldn’t dampen their spirits, nor could the thunderous downpour in their fifth match in Guatemala City.

Knowing that a draw would clinch a spot in the quarterfinals, Seattle twice had to bounce back against Comunicaciones.

The Sounders clawed their way back into the match, though it took some last minute heroics from Osvaldo Alonso to do so.  Alonso scored just before halftime to equalize and then again just before the final whistle for the 2-2 draw, giving Seattle enough points in the group stage to lock up a spot in the quarterfinals. (Highlights)

With just seeding on the line, the Sounders fell 2-1 to Monterrey in the group stage finale, setting them up for the quarterfinal draw.

There they meet Santos Laguna in the two-leg aggregate-goal series, starting Wednesday night at CenturyLink Field and concluding on March 14 in Torreon, Mexico.  With the semifinals and finals on the horizon – and by no means small tasks – the Sounders find themselves six matches away from the FIFA Club World Cup.  If they reach that goal, their journey that started with the 2010 Open Cup title won’t come to an end until mid-December in Japan.

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