With Tuesday’s massive CONCACAF Champions League return leg right around the corner, let’s take a look at several of the Santos players who’ll be looking to send their side back to the CCL finals.
Oribe Peralta and Herculez Gomez: Peralta went the full 90 against Seattle last week, and was threatening throughout the match, generating several quality chances and providing Gomez with room to roam. Peralta didn’t see action in Santos’ Liga MX matchup with Tijuana this weekend, likely due to his continued recovery from an injury suffered earlier in Santos’ Clausura campaign. He’ll be expected back for the return leg against Seattle.
And Herculez Gomez, well, what’s there left to say about Herculez Gomez? Seattle – and every other MLS team out there – knows full well that the former A-League Sounder is a game-changer, scoring four goals in three games against Seattle.
Carlos Darwin Quintero: Stopping the Colombian winger will be key to Seattle’s chances of advancing. While Peralta and Gomez share the limelight up top, Quintero is the engine of Santos’ attack. He’s also been a Champions League terror for years – his 15 total goals in CCL play (four in this edition alone) are good for second all-time, an honor he shares with Monterrey’s talismanic striker, Humberto Suazo.
While Gomez scored the match-winner last Tuesday, it was Quintero’s play that set the goal up. The Colombian’s run up the middle pulled cover off of Gomez, and when Quintero’s blast from 20 yards out was parried away by Seattle keeper Marcus Hahnemann, the ever opportunistic Gomez was right there to bury the rebound. Despite all the praise heaped upon Gomez after the opening leg victory, it was Quintero who was Santos’ primary threat throughout the evening. Seattle would do well to keep that from happening again.
Felipe Baloy: The Panamanian National Team Captain and Santos Laguna central defender anchors a defensive corps that has given up a scant nine goals over 13 Liga MX matches this season. Joined by outside backs Jorge Estrada and Osmar Mares, Baloy is a huge piece of the stingiest defense in Liga MX.
Oswaldo Sanchez: Seattle will need goals, obviously. At least one to force overtime and possibly a penalty kick shootout, and at least two to win the series in regulation. While the Sounders might welcome the return of a fully fit Eddie Johnson up top, he and the rest of the Seattle attack face a tall task in getting the better of the wily Mexican National Team veteran and Santos Laguna captain.
Sanchez, who’s only allowed a pair of goals in his four Champions League starts this campaign, has long been a thorn in the side of many U.S.-based teams, the national team included. He was on point again last week, stopping all two of Seattle’s attempts on goal and guiding his side to within 90 minutes of a second consecutive CCL finals appearance.