TORREON, Mexico – The Sounders FC came into the match on Wednesday against Santos Laguna looking to become the first US team to top a Mexican club in a two-game series since the CONCACAF Champions League went to its current format in 2008.
At halftime of the quarterfinal match, they trailed 2-2, but felt in control of the match, since it was then even 3-3 on aggregate.
But Santos Laguna showed just why they had been so successful at Estadio Corona, notching four second half goals off the counter attack to knock Seattle out of the tournament with a 6-1 final score in the match, giving them a 7-3 defeat on aggregate.
“At halftime I thought it was good because at halftime the score was basically 0-0,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “We felt that the first 20 minutes of the second half was going to be very important – we told them that – but obviously they scored goals and our reaction wasn’t good.”
In the 8th minute, Seattle had two great chances thwarted by Oswaldo Sanchez, then Christian Suarez gave Santos the 1-0 lead in the match.
Off a Mauro Rosales corner kick Alvaro Fernandez had his header blocked by Sanchez, but the rebound found the head of Brad Evans. However Sanchez swatted away his attempt too. On the quick counter attack, Suarez took the ball on the left side and sent a right-footed ball inside the near post past a diving Michael Gspurning for the goal.
Before Seattle had a chance to respond, Santos added to their lead in the 10th minute.
Daniel Luduena sent a great ball to Oribe Peralta in the box. Peralta used his body well to shield Jhon Kennedy Hurtado before ripping a right-footed shot inside the near post for the goal and the 2-0 lead in the match and a 3-2 lead in the series.
However, Seattle was able to get the series equalizer before halftime.
In the 37th minute, Fredy Montero sent a great cross from the left side that finds Alvaro Fernandez for a far post header in front of an open net. Santos held a 2-1 lead in the match, but the series was now even at 3-3 with both sides holding one away goal.
“I think we did very well in the first half,” Rosales said. “I think we had the chances. It was a pity that the score was that bad because I don’t think we deserved that, but that’s okay. That’s football.”
With the start of the second half came the end of the Sounders hopes of advancing to the semifinals.
In the 49th minute, Seattle had another chance stopped by Sanchez when Montero fed the ball in the box to Rosales up the right side of the goal. Sanchez slid in to stop the ball at his feet, then Santos went out on the quick counter with Suarez making a great run up the left side before sending a square ball to Gomez unmarked on the far side and he sent it back inside the far post for the goal and a 3-1 Santos lead.
Gomez added another in the 68th minute off a quick ball up the right side and that goal deflated the Sounders, as they fell behind 4-1.
Suarez would make it 5-1 in the 76th minute and Carlos Ochoa put the final nail in the coffin in the 81st minute, sending the Sounders home with the worst competitive defeat in club history.
“When they made it 4-1 I think we lost our concentration,” Schmid said. “We have to look at why we started the game slowly, why we started the second half slowly. I have to look at that and see what I can change to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
In the match, Eddie Johnson subbed on in the 62nd minute, but had to be replaced in the 81st minute when he suffered a hip flexor injury.
Santos Laguna will face Toronto FC in the semifinal after the Canadian MLS club topped the LA Galaxy 4-3 in their series.
The Sounders will host Toronto FC on Saturday in their MLS opener at CenturyLink Field.
Sounders FC – Alvaro Fernandez (Fredy Montero) 37.
Santos Laguna – Christian Suarez 8; Oribe Peralta (Daniel Luduena) 10; Herculez Gomez (Christian Suarez) 49; Herculez Gomez (Oribe Peralta, Jorge Estrada) 67; Christian Suarez (Jorge Estrada) 76; Carlos Ochoa 81.
Sounders FC – Leo Gonzalez (caution) 14; Fredy Montero (caution) 30.
Santos Laguna – Oribe Peralta (caution) 37; Felipe Baloy (caution) 45; Juan Pablo Rodriguez (caution) 88.
Sounders FC – Michael Gspurning, Adam Johansson, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez (Christian Sivebæk 77), Mauro Rosales, Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Alvaro Fernandez, Fredy Montero, David Estrada (Eddie Johnson 62, Roger Levesque 81).
Santos Laguna – Oswaldo Sánchez, Aaron Galindo, Felipe Baloy, Jorge Estrada, Osmar Mares, Daniel Ludueña (Candido Ramirez 63), Juan Pablo Rodríguez, Marc Crosas (Rodolfo Salinas 33), Herculez Gómez (Carlos Ochoa 69), Oribe Peralta, Christian Suárez.