SEATTLE – For 77 minutes, it looked like the Seattle Sounders would be heading into second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series with Chivas de Guadalajara in a scoreless aggregate draw.
Then, Clint Dempsey happened.
Dempsey bagged the game’s lone goal in the 78th minute of Wednesday’s CCL first leg against Chivas de Guadalajara at CenturyLink Field. The tally gave the Sounders a crucial 1-0 aggregate lead ahead of next Wednesday’s second leg at Estadio Akron against their Liga MX counterparts.
Both sides notched changes in a back and forth first half but neither quite managed to find the net. Chivas forward Alan Pulido had perhaps the best look of the opening frame for the visitors after Sounders center back Román Torres slipped and fell, allowing Pulido to dash in with a 1-v-1 against goalkeeper Stefan Frei. But Frei made a massive save to deny the savvy striker and keep the contest scoreless.
Dempsey nearly struck for Seattle in the 34th minute after he teed up a well-placed shot from distance that was barely parried away by Chivas ‘keeper Rodolfo Cota, allowing the scoreless deadlock to hold into halftime.
Dempsey would find the elusive goal in the 78th, though, after substitute Henry Wingo set him up with a look directly in front of goal that the longtime U.S. national team veteran lashed past Cota.
DEUCE LOVES THE BRIGHT LIGHTS
Dempsey has proven throughout his club and international career that he doesn’t just love scoring goals – he loves scoring goals in big moments. He showed that once again in Wednesday’s match against one of the more quality opponents the Sounders will have to face in 2018.
NO ROAD GOAL
In a tournament where the away goals rule is the first tiebreaker in case of an aggregate draw, not allowing the visiting opposition to succeed is paramount – arguably more important than scoring yourself. The Sounders accomplished that objective on Wednesday, thanks to some heroic defending, particularly from center back Chad Marshall and Frei.
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
MLS teams always have to lean on depth pieces to balance the fixture congestion caused by CCL and the Sounders are no exception. With new midfielder Magnus Wolff Eikrem unavailable for the first leg due to a knee contusion, 18-year-old Homegrown rookie Handwalla Bwana and Wingo each stepped up big in his absence. Right back Jordan McCrary also put in a solid shift in place of Kelvin Leerdam, who is still nursing a sprained ankle. If the Sounders want to see this series through to the CCL semis, the kids will probably have to play a big role once again.