CONCACAF Champions League semifinals kick off with first leg against Santos

The Sounders will welcome the Mexican club to CenturyLink Field in what should be a hotly-contested match.
Sounders FC vs. Santos Laguna
CONCACAF Champions League Semifinals
April 2, 7:00 pm PT, CenturyLink Field
TV/Radio: Fox Soccer, KIRO Radio 97.3 FM

The Sounders have played some big games in their history as a Major League Soccer club.

History-making moments have been the norm for the club in tournaments outside of an MLS regular season slate that has featured some of the largest stand-alone crowds in the league’s history.

In the US Open Cup, they were the first MLS expansion team to win the title since 1998 when they went on the road to top DC United in 2009. The next year, they became the first MLS team to win two straight Open Cups with a win over the Columbus Crew in 2010. Then they were the first team since 1969 to win three straight titles when they bettered the Chicago Fire in 2011.

In CONCACAF Champions League, they were just the second MLS club to ever beat a Mexican opponent in Mexico when they beat Monterrey 1-0 in the Group Stage in 2011. Then, last month they became the first MLS club to ever oust a Liga MX club in the Champions League when they came from two goals down to advance past Tigres UANL in the quarterfinals of the 2012-13 tournament.

INFOGRAPHIC: Sounders FC vs Santos Laguna

Now in the semifinals, they will look to reach that accomplishment a second time when they square off against Santos Laguna, beginning with the first leg on Tuesday at CenturyLink Field.

For the Sounders, Tuesday’s match is not just an opportunity to get off on the right foot in what promises to be a difficult series, but also a chance to make amends for what they deemed a disappointing performance against Real Salt Lake on Saturday that capped an 0-3-1 month in regular season play.

“It’s always good when you have a quick turnaround. There’s no real time to lull on our current situation,” said midfielder Brad Evans. “It’s a tournament that we’ve been successful in and our focus turns solely on (Tuesday).”

The task ahead of them is a difficult one, to be sure. And if anyone knows just how difficult the opponent that looms ahead of them is, it is the Sounders, who faced Santos Laguna in the quarterfinals of the 2011-12 Champions League.

There, Seattle felt satisfied with their 2-1 win at CenturyLink Field in the first leg and were even optimistic when the aggregate score was 3-3 at halftime of the second leg in Torreon, Mexico. That is when Santos exploded for four goals to put Seattle way with a 7-3 series victory.

“I hope that we’ve learned from our past mistakes, but we know they are a very, very good team,” Evans said. “We just have to do whatever we can do to better our position when we get down to Santos.”

The Sounders will have a much different look, for better or for worse, than the one that took the field a year ago, though.

With departures from the team and the suspension of goalkeeper Michael Gspurning for yellow card accumulation, the door is open for other players on the Sounders roster, including goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann.

“It’s huge. For myself, every time get to put on the shirt, it’s got huge meaning. Now in Champions League … it’s a huge deal,” Hahnemann said. “I don’t care who it is. Salt Lake. LA. Mexican team. Brazilian team. English team. It’s still a game of soccer that we want to go out and win, especially in front of our home fans.”

In Santos, they will meet a club that features eight players regularly starting that also started against the Sounders last year. Among those are US National Team forward Herculez Gomez and Mexican National Team forward Oribe Peralta. The third in their forward triumvirate, Carlos Quintero, gives them an attacking trio that’s a force to be reckoned with that will provide the Sounders with their greatest challenge.

“Herculez, Peralta and Quintero are very active up front. The three of them have pretty good freedom to go where they want to go, but they also do a good job of balancing each other off,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “That makes them a dangerous team because they are very flexible in terms of how they attack.”

Kickoff for the first leg is scheduled for 7 pm PT, with television coverage on Fox Soccer and the radio broadcast on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM. Tickets are available by phone at 800-745-3000 or by visiting SoundersFC.com.

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