SEATTLE – The Sounders FC went into their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal matchup against Santos Laguna needing a positive result to head into the second leg with an opportunity to win the series.
Unlike their quarterfinal series against Tigres UANL, though, the 1-0 defeat in the first leg at CenturyLink Field was much less desirable in the first leg than the loss by the same score line in Monterrey, Mexico.
“You don’t want to lose your home game, but I thought we didn’t play that poorly. We did alright,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “I thought for the most part we held them at bay, which was good. Now we have to go down there and play pretty much a perfect game, but that’s not impossible. It’s difficult, but it’s not impossible.”
The Sounders were left without starting forwards Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins because of injury and goalkeeper Michael Gspurning because of suspension. Even David Estrada was out with an injury, leaving head coach Sigi Schmid with some lineup shuffling.
Schmid’s lineup did the work to keep Santos within striking distance by holding the volatile side scoreless in the first half, but Santos Laguna would get a second-half goal against the run of play by US National Team forward Herculez Gomez and will go into the second leg on April 9 at Estadio Corona toting a 1-0 lead.
Seattle dominated possession in the early stages of the match and held a distinct advantage when it came to winning duels, but Santos made some adjustments and by the end of the first half, those aspects of the game evened out. Even still, the Sounders were still able to limit Santos to just two shots on goal, both of which were saved without much exertion from goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann.
On the other end, Evans had two shots in quick succession in the 19th and 20th minutes and Martinez provided flare for Seattle, though he managed just one shot and set up another from Ochoa late in the half.
In the 53rd minute, the Sounders had three consecutive corners and Osvaldo Alonso ultimately had his cracking shot from the top of the box saved by Oswaldo Sanchez.
Santos took possession and turned it the other way with Carlos Quintero shooting a contested shot from the top of the box. Hahnemann blocked the shot from Quintero, but Gomez crashed on the rebound and banged it inside the far post for his ninth Champions League goal and a 1-0 lead in the 54th minute.
“The goal was difficult. It was a misplay from us in the back and we didn’t mark up on that side and Herculez buried his opportunity,” Schmid said.
In the final 20 minutes, Schmid would bring on two attacking threats in Mauro Rosales and Steve Zakuani, but Santos put the defensive clamps down and Seattle was only able to generate one more scoring chance in the 86th minute when Zach Scott cracked a header off a ball from Rosales on the right side.
After the game Schmid indicated that he was happy with the team’s performance under the circumstances and hopes to have Johnson and Martins available for the second leg in Mexico.
“The effort of that group was pretty good,” Schmid said. “I think some guys who had opportunities tonight stepped up and played.”
The Sounders will have the weekend off from MLS action before heading to Torreon, Mexico for the second leg next week. Any victory that sees the Sounders score more than one goal would put them through to the finals, while a 1-0 win would force overtime. Any other result would put Santos Laguna through to the final.
Sounders FC – None.
Santos Laguna – Herculez Gomez 54.
Sounders FC – None.
Santos Laguna – Juan Pablo Rodriguez (caution) 18.
Sounders FC – Marcus Hahnemann, DeAndre Yedlin, Djimi Traore, Zach Scott, Leo Gonzalez, Mario Martinez, Brad Evans (Mauro Rosales 72), Osvaldo Alonso, Shalrie Joseph (Andy Rose 72), Alex Caskey (Steve Zakuani 78), Sammy Ochoa.
Santos Laguna – Oswaldo Sanchez, Jorge Estrada, Felipe Baloy, Rafael Figueroa, Osmar Mares, Rodolfo Salinas, Marc Crosas, Juan Pablo Rodriguez, Herculez Gomez, Carlos Quintero (Mario Cardenas 88) and Oribe Peralta