SEATTLE – To advance in their quarterfinal series against Tigres in the CONCACAF Champions League, the Sounders were going to need a standout performance from their defenders.
They never expected it to come on the offensive end though.
Trailing 2-0 in the series after allowing a first-half goal to Elias Hernandez, the Sounders got a pair of sensational goals from DeAndre Yedlin and Djimi Traore to pull even at 2-2 in the series.
That left the stage set for Eddie Johnson to erupt for his first goal of the season in the 75th minute to put the Sounders up 3-1 in the match, putting them through for a rendezvous with history as the first MLS side to eliminate a Mexican club in the CONCACAF Champions League with a 3-2 aggregate-goal series win.
“I’m very proud of the way we came back in the second half,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid. “We wanted to win, we felt we could win. I’m very proud of what the guys accomplished and to be the first is always a good thing.”
Tigres went down a man just before halftime when Manuel Viniegra picked up two first-half cautions for delaying a restart and Seattle took control with the man-advantage in the second half.
In the 53rd minute, Mauro Rosales sent a corner kick into the box from the right side and it was bounced clear by Tigres, only to land at the boot of Yedlin, who rocketed the volley inside the near post into the bottom corner for his first professional goal.
In the 60th minute, Traore took a bouncing ball off the half-volley from 35-yards out and blistered it under the crossbar, just out of the reach of Tigres goalkeeper Jorge Diaz de Leon to make the match 2-1 and the series 2-2.
“That’s the type of goal that gives a shot of adrenaline to everybody on the field,” Schmid said.
Not to be outdone, Johnson had a highlight reel goal of his own, racing up the left side on a ball from Steve Zakuani and deftly splitting it near post from an improbable angle to put it inside the far post for the goal to put Seattle into the lead in the series.
“We came out and played and took risks,” Johnson said of the second-half comeback. “We were down 2-0 and really had nothing to lose. We just went out there to make the most of our chances. We had some chances in the first half and the first half wasn’t our best, but we still had chances to put ourselves back in the game.”
The Sounders will meet the winner of the series between the Houston Dynamo and Santos Laguna. Houston leads the series 1-0 as the series heads to the second leg Wednesday night in Torreon, Mexico. The semifinal series will begin April 2-4, with the second leg falling April 9-11.
All of the second half drama was set up by a first half that saw Seattle outshoot Tigres 11-5. However, the visiting club made their opportunities count putting all five shots on frame to just three shots on goal for Seattle.
One of those chances came in the 23rd minute when Alberto Acosta made a run up the left side on a ball from Jonathan Bornstein. Acosta bumped Yedlin off the ball to get space, then sent a ball across the box to Elias Hernandez at the far post for a tap into the empty side of the net for the goal and a 1-0 lead in the match to give Tigres a 2-0 lead in the series.
Tigres continued to press and nearly added to the lead in the 30th minute off a corner kick when Viniegra got to a loose ball in the box and blasted it on frame, only to have Gspurning make the stop on the line.
Gspurning would finish the night with four saves to help put the Sounders through to the semifinals.
The match wouldn’t go without some difficulties for Seattle though. Brad Evans left the match immediately following the Tigres goal in the 23rd minute with a left calf strain and Rosales left the match after Seattle’s first goal after taking a hard foul early in the match.
Next up, the Sounders will host the Portland Timbers in MLS play on Saturday at 5 pm PT at CenturyLink Field.
Sounders FC – DeAndre Yedlin 53; Djimi Traore 60; Eddie Johnson (Steve Zakuani) 75;
Tigres – Elias Hernandez (Alberto Acosta, Jonathan Bornstein) 23;
Sounders FC – Eddie Johnson (caution) 14; Osvaldo Alonso (caution) 48; Steve Zakuani (caution) 82;
Tigres – Jorge Diaz de Leon (caution) 35; Manuel Viniegra (caution) 37; Manuel Viniegra (caution/ejection) 45; Elias Hernandez (caution) 81
Sounders FC – Michael Gspurning, DeAndre Yedlin, Djimi Traore, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez, Mauro Rosales (Mario Martinez 54), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans (Andy Rose 27), Steve Zakuani (Marc Burch 83), Eddie Johnson, Sammy Ochoa.
Tigres – Jorge Diaz De Leon, Abraham Stringel (Josue Auilar 87), Hugo Rodriguez, Alfonso Zamora, Jose Rivas (Jorge Espericueta 45), Alberto Acosta (Taufic Guarch 61), Manuel Viniegra, Jesus Duenas, Jonathan Bornstein, Elias Hernandez and Alan Pulido.