SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras – For the second straight year, the Sounders FC advanced to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League with a good result on the road in Central America.
Last year, they got a stoppage time goal from Osvaldo Alonso to earn a draw with Comunicaciones in Guatemala to punch their tickets to the knockout round.
This time around, it was a 3-2 victory over Marathon on Wednesday in Honduras that lifted the Sounders to 3-0-0 in the group stage and moved them on to the quarterfinals.
Seattle conceded two penalties on the night – all four of their goals allowed in the group stage were from the penalty spot – but rallied to get a late goal from Brad Evans after two earlier scores from Sammy Ochoa and Eddie Johnson to earn the 3-2 win over Marathon.
“It’s tremendous,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “It’s a goal we set for ourselves, that we wanted to qualify tonight and we were able to accomplish that.”
Making a return to his hometown, Mario Martinez got the Sounders out to a fast start in the 11th minute. He dribbled up the left side, then sent a left-footed cross into the box where Ochoa goes to the ground to head it inside the near post for his third goal in the last three CCL matches, putting the Sounders up 1-0.
“We talked about it. If we had a goal early, it’s going to bring them down because they’re going to come out strong the first 20 minutes,” Ochoa said. “I got a good cross from Mario. He gave me one last game against Caledonia but I didn’t put it away. He told me on the next pass he gave me I better put it away. Luckily, I put it in and we went up 1-0.”
The Sounders threatened throughout the rest of the half, but had offside calls and shot selection keep them from adding to the lead. Then in the 28th minute, Zach Scott had a goal called back as Seattle appeared to take the 2-0 lead. He out-jumped goalkeeper Jose Mendoza for a ball and knocked it in with a header, but was whistled for a foul on the play and the goal was disallowed.
Marathon capitalized in the 35th minute.
The home side got away on the counter-attack and drew a penalty when Michael Gspurning came off his line to chase down a ball up the left side, taking down Mitchell Brown in the box for a yellow card and a penalty. Mario Berrios put the ball high and to the right and Gspurning got his fingers to it, but couldn't keep it out of the net for the equalizer.
In the second half, the Sounders continued to push for victory.
Andy Rose played a ball in from the right side and Eddie Johnson turned on it to blister a right-footed shot inside the near post to beat Mendoza for the goal and a 2-1 Seattle lead.
However, they would fall victim to the penalty once again in the 68th minute. Patrick Ianni and Julian Rapalo converged on a bouncing ball in the box and collided, drawing a penalty call in favor of Marathon. Berrios shot to Gspurning's right, but the Seattle keeper dove left and Marathon again equalized from the spot.
After the goal, Schmid brought on Evans and he made a quick impact.
Marathon cleared a ball from the box, but Seattle recovered possession and Osvaldo Alonso found Evans alone in the box for a header that he put past Jose Mendoza to give the Sounders the 3-2 lead.
“It was a great cross, and Brad, very similar to Sammy Ochoa, got good position and hit a good header and put it in the back of the net,” Schmid said. “His heading ability is a quality that Brad brings to the game for us.”
They would hold on and win by that score, meaning their match in Seattle against Marathon on October 24 at CenturyLink Field will be important only for seeding in the quarterfinals, which start next March.
The Sounders left Adam Johansson, Mauro Rosales and Christian Tiffert in Seattle as they prepare to face the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
“For us, it’s a good confidence booster going into this weekend, especially with a big one coming up for us,” Evans said. “This win under our belt will help us along the way, I think, in the long run. Putting in the effort tonight that the guys put in – we got to rest some guys and some guys got to stretch their legs a little bit tonight also.”
The match against San Jose was originally scheduled for Sunday, but was rescheduled to Saturday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 with television coverage on KONG 6/16.
Sounders FC – Sammy Ochoa (Mario Martinez) 11; Eddie Johnson (Andy Rose) 62; Brad Evans (Osvaldo Alonso) 78.
Marathon – Mario Berrios (PK) 35; Mario Berrios (PK) 68.
Sounders FC – Servando Carrasco (caution) 26; Michael Gspurning (caution) 34; Patrick Ianni (caution) 67; Zach Scott (caution) 72.
Marathon – Luis Castro (caution) 42; Reineiri Mayorquin (caution) 84.
Sounders FC – Michael Gspurning, Zach Scott, Patrick Ianni, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Marc Burch, Mario Martinez, Servando Carrasco, Andy Rose (Brad Evans 69), Alex Caskey (Osvaldo Alonso 61), Eddie Johnson (Fredy Montero 76), Sammy Ochoa.
Marathon – Jose Mendoza, Mauritius Sabillon, Luis Castro, Pastor Martinez (Quiarol Arzu 77), Mario Berrios, Junior Sandoval (Cristhian Altamirano 46), Mariano Acevedo, Reineiri Mayorquin, Julian Rapalo, Mitchell Brown, Randy Diamond (Rony Flores 69).