SEATTLE – In their first match of the 2012 campaign, the Sounders FC couldn’t have reasonably asked for much more than the 2-1 victory they earned over Santos Laguna in the first leg of their quarterfinal matchup in the CONCACAF Champions League.
They got out to an early lead, showed the resilience to bounce back when Santos scored the equalizer early in the second half, then managed the clock to maintain their lead heading into the second game of the series next week.
“They’re a very good team. They were obviously in midseason form, so I was really proud of what we did,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “Being able to score right after they equalized was certainly important to us and to walk away with a victory tonight was important because it means next week they have to beat us. A tie isn’t going to be good enough and we always feel very good about going on the road.”
Seattle got goals from David Estrada and Brad Evans to take the advantage in the aggregate goal series, and the two teams will meet in the second leg on Wednesday, March 14, in Torreon, Mexico.
With a Sounders FC Champions League record crowd of 23,433 in attendance at CenturyLink Field, Estrada made the moment count, scoring his first competitive goal in the 12th minute.
Leo Gonzalez found Fredy Montero with a pass 20 yards out wiht his back ot the goal. Montero turned and sent the ball to the far post, where David Estrada ran onto it and headed it into the net for a 1-0 Seattle lead.
“I thought we came out and we were sharp, we had some good combinations early on in the game,” Schmid said. “Getting the early goal was important. It was a good goal by David Estrada, a great ball by Fredy Montero.”
Seattle continued to pressure the goal, finding two more scoring chances in the next six minutes, but headers from Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Montero couldn’t find the net and Seattle settled for the 1-0 lead going into halftime.
The start of the second half saw the two teams battling at the same level, then Santos finally broke through with a goal in the 61st minute.
Herculez Gomez cut across the box and inside Leo Gonzalez to take a pass from Marc Crosas and turned it to his left foot to fire a quick shot past Michael Gspurning for the equalizing goal.
Seattle quickly found themselves with a chance to regain the lead, though, when they were awarded a free kick 35 yards out on the left side.
Mauro Rosales bent the free kick into the middle of the box and Evans struck a header back inside the left post to regain the lead at 2-1.
“To respond and get the second goal gives us even more confidence going down there,” Evans said. “We know that they have to beat us and I can tell you that nobody is scared to go down there. We have done well anywhere we played away from home last year.”
The Sounders FC will travel to Mexico early next week and face Santos Laguna in the second leg of the series on Wednesday at Territorio Santos Modelo in Torreon, Mexico. Kickoff is slated for 5 pm Pacific Time.
Sounders FC – David Estrada (Fredy Montero, Leo Gonzalez) 12; Brad Evans (Mauro Rosales) 63;
Santos Laguna – Herculez Gomez (Marc Crosas) 61.
Sounders FC – Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (caution) 33; Leo Gonzalez (caution) 58; David Estrada (caution) 89.
Santos Laguna – Juan Pablo Rodriguez (caution) 28; Osmar Mares (caution) 29; Oswaldo Sanchez (caution) 65; Santiago Hoyos (caution) 80.
Sounders FC – Michael Gspurning, Adam Johansson, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez, Mauro Rosales, Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Alvaro Fernandez (Eddie Johnson 78), Fredy Montero, David Estrada (Marc Burch 90).
Santos Laguna – Oswaldo Sánchez, Aaron Galindo, Santiago Hoyos, Jorge Estrada, Osmar Mares, Daniel Ludueña (Candio Ramirez 74), Juan Pablo Rodríguez (Rodolfo Salinas 84), Marc Crosas, Herculez Gómez (Carlos Ochoa 84), Oribe Peralta, Christian Suárez.