The Sounders are no strangers to making history.
In 2009, they became the first expansion side since the league began expanding to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs. In 2010, they were the first MLS club to repeat as US Open Cup champions. In 2011, they became the first team in 42 years and just the fourth overall to win three consecutive Open Cup titles.
On Tuesday night, they added to that history.
Since CONCACAF Champions League started in 2008 with a Group Stage followed by a knockout round, no MLS team had ever knocked a Liga MX club out of the tournament. With their 3-1 win over Tigres UANL on Tuesday at CenturyLink Field, the Sounders mounted an unlikely comeback against a team that had gone unbeaten in their last 13 competitive matches and sits atop the Liga MX standings at 7-0-3, advancing to the semifinals of the Champions League with a 3-2 series victory.
“It’s amazing. It is a story you can pass on to your kids and grandkids and it makes the city proud,” said 19-year-old Sounders FC defender DeAndre Yedlin. “It’s good for us.”
Last year, both the Sounders and Toronto FC lost to Santos Laguna in the tournament – Seattle 7-3 in the quarterfinals and Toronto 7-3 in the semifinals. In 2011, Real Salt Lake got past the Columbus Crew and Costa Rica’s Saprissa to reach the final, only to fall to Monterrey 3-2 in the championship series. In 2010, the Crew lost 5-4 to Toluca in the quarterfinals. And in 2009, the Houston Dynamo were ousted 4-1 by Atlante.
Under the Champions Cup format, the streak of futility dates back to 2002, when the Kansas City Wizards prevailed over Santos Laguna in the quarterfinals for the last time an MLS club topped a Liga MX club in a two-game series in CONCACAF play. From that point until the change in format after the 2008 tournament, seven more MLS teams were beaten by Mexican opponents.
Making the victory even more impressive was the comeback staged by the Sounders. After falling 1-0 in Mexico, Seattle had confidence that they would be able to bounce back in the return leg. However, Tigres struck first at CenturyLink Field and staked themselves to a 2-0 lead at halftime of the second leg, meaning Seattle had 45 minutes to score three goals if they wanted to advance. Two goals wouldn’t be enough because of the first tie-breaker if the series ended even – away goals.
In the second half, Yedlin scored his first professional goal on a screaming volley from 30 yards out and defender Djimi Traore followed it up with a long-range shot of his own. Finally, Eddie Johnson gave the Sounders victory with a low-angle shot from the left side and the Sounders emerged from the pit they found themselves in at halftime, advancing with at 3-2 series win.
“Tonight I think that we showed the character of our team,” Traore said. “We were all disappointed with ourselves in the first half because we knew we hadn't done enough, but we came out in the second half with more determination and more desire. I think that was the difference.”
The Sounders could meet another MLS side in the semifinals if the Houston Dynamo can match their feat and overtake Santos Laguna in their quarterfinal series. Houston leads the series 1-0 after the first leg at BBVA Compass Stadium and Wednesday they meet in Torreon, Mexico for the second leg.
However, even if the Dynamo advance, they will not have the same claim at history that the Sounders hold.
“It’s a historic night,” goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said. “Houston can beat Santos tomorrow, but we are the first. That’s a good thing.”