João Paulo scored in his club debut and Jordan Morris added a goal of his own as the Seattle Sounders managed a 2-2 result in the first leg of their Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 series against C.D. Olimpia in San Pedro Sula, Honduras on Thursday.
João Paulo got his Sounders career off to a roaring start, putting the Sounders in front in just the sixth minute on a thundering header off a cross from Morris, who was sprung into space by Joevin Jones.
The rest of the first half was lively, with plenty of the type of chippy and physical play that can be expected in CCL, but neither side managed another goal and Seattle would take its 1-0 lead into halftime.
Seattle would strike for a second nine minutes into the second half after Morris crashed home the rebound off a shot from Jones to push Seattle’s lead to 2-0.
Olimpia would pull one back in the 63rd minute, however, off a close-range finish from Justin Arboleda to make it 2-1. The hosts then found their equalizer nine minutes from full time, with Arboleda striking again with a headed finish to pull the score to the 2-2 line that would as the final.
WELCOME TO THE SQUAD
How’s that for an entrance? João Paulo was one of the two big offseason signings by Seattle along with center back Yeimar Gómez Andrade, and the Brazilian showed his quality with the crucial early road goal, blasting home a textbook header. It was a classy overall sequence, starting with the feed from Jones and the run and cross from Morris, but if there’s one takeaway from this match that may have the biggest future implications, it’s that João Paulo looks very much like the force he was brought in to be.
ROAD GOALS, ROAD GOALS, ROAD GOALS
They’re in effect for CCL, and they’re crucial, standing as the first tiebreaker should the series finish as a draw on aggregate. Getting at least one was pivotal and getting two turned out to be highly necessary with the second-half concessions.
These early CCL matches are all about survival. The conditions are tough. You’re playing a team multiple games into its league campaign in your first competitive match, while trying to gain fitness. Needless to say, getting any type of result in these matches is extremely difficult, so while the Sounders would have liked to maintain the clean sheet, Thursday’s match can be considered a job well done. Now, for Seattle, the focus turns to finishing the job at CenturyLink Field in Leg Two on Feb. 27 (7:00 p.m. PT; FS2 | TICKETS).