MONTERREY, Mexico – The Sounders went into Estadio Universitario for their match against Tigres UANL in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series with an aim to earn a result that put them in position to compete in the second leg back in Seattle.
Statistically, the match had all the makings of a blowout. Tigres outshot Seattle 18-3, including 11-0 in the first half, while also holding 65-percent of the possession in the match.
Even still, the Sounders accomplished their goal by fighting off a ferocious Tigres attack to walk out with just a 1-0 defeat, opening things up for a showdown at CenturyLink Field for the second leg next week.
“I feel good about where we’re at,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “I think our best soccer is ahead of us, and being at home in front of our fans with a good chance to advance in this tournament is where we wanted to be.”
The difference in the game came on a controversial play when Alan Pulido put away a rebound of a shot that looked to come from an offside position. Michael Gspurning made the initial stop for one of his five saves on the night and Pulido got his head to the rebound while the linesman’s flag stayed down and it ended as the only goal on the night.
“Our history of the last two years in two-game series in the league, I thought it was important … that once we took that goal we maintained our defensive integrity and didn’t take another goal,” Schmid said. “That was a mistake we made in the past games.”
Things got scary for the Sounders in the third minute when Lucas Lobos got the ball all alone at the right post. He cut back to his left around Gspurning and shot, but Leo Gonzalez and Djimi Traore were there to clear it off the line for a tremendous save.
The Sounders first put the Tigres goal under pressure in the 23rd minute after seven shots from Tigres on the other end. Mario Martinez sent a nice free kick into the box from 28 yards out that just missed the head of Eddie Johnson and drifted into the arms of goalkeeper Enrique Palos.
In the 37th minute, the Sounders dodged a bullet as Luis Garcia got his boot to a ball just outside the six-yard box and caught Gspurning flat-footed, but skipped his shot wide.
Even with that 11-0 shot deficit, Seattle was still able to keep Tigres off the board and went into the break with the score knotted at 0-0.
“We dodged a few bullets. I think they had three really good chances in the first half,” Schmid said. “Obviously we got fortunate in there because they missed some chances they might normally score, but that’s part of the game, too.”
After an initial press by Seattle in the opening minutes of the second half, Tigres returned to the first half form, putting consistent pressure on the Sounders defense.
Seattle was able to break free and got their first shot in the 57th minute when Mario Martinez led Johnson up the left side and Johnson ripped a left-footed ball from the top of the box that Palos blocked for the save.
In the 73rd minute though, Tigres took the advantage on the debated play.
Alberto Acosta put a ball over the top of the Seattle defense to Lobos. His effort was stopped by Gspurning, but Pulido was there to nod in the first goal of the match, knocking the rebound into the opened net for a 1-0 lead.
Lamar Neagle had a close effort at an equalizer in the 82nd minute off a ball from the left side, but Palos made the near post save.
For the final five minutes of the match, the Sounders played with six defenders in the match, keeping Tigres from adding to that deficit and the match ended 1-0.
“We know now that we play at home in front of our fans for the second time of the season,” said Traore, who was making his Sounders FC debut. “We lost the first game, so now of course we need to win this game and with the fans behind us and all the stadium, I think we'll have a great result.”
The second leg of the quarterfinal is Tuesday, March 12, at CenturyLink Field, where the Sounders will need a 1-0 victory to force overtime and a two-goal win to advance to the semifinals, where they would meet the winner of the series between the Houston Dynamo and Santos Laguna. The Dynamo currently hold a 1-0 lead after winning the first leg at Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium on Tuesday.
Sounders FC – None.
Tigres – Alan Pulido 73.
Sounders FC – None.
Tigres – None.
Sounders FC – Michael Gspurning, Zach Scott, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Djimi Traore, Leo Gonzalez, Alex Caskey (DeAndre Yedlin 81), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Mario Martinez (Marc Burch 89), Eddie Johnson, Mauro Rosales (Lamar Neagle 68).
Tigres – Enrique Palos, Israel Jimenez, Juninho, Hugo Ayala, Jorge Torres, Alberto Acosta (Danilo Veron 77), Jose Torres, Lucas Lobos, Carlos Salcido, Elias Hernandez (Alan Pulido 65), Luis Garcia.
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