CCL: Sounders show mental toughness in win vs. Santos
SEATTLE – For a nervous few minutes after 6 pm, the Seattle Sounders considered drastically shaking up their lineup on Wednesday night. With kickoff less than an hour away, four starters found themselves stuck in their cars after a traffic accident caused a massive backup on Seattle’s Interstate 90.
Michael Gspurning, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Fredy Montero and Osvaldo Alonso all arrived at around 6:25, according to head coach Sigi Schmid. While the disruption to the daily routine may have hurt the players, Schmid was proud that his team responded with a 2-1 victory in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal with Santos Laguna.
“As we always say, whatever the obstacles are we’re just going to deal with them,” Schmid said after the match. “We deal with the adversity and we move on.”
Schmid said a couple players were still a little “distraught over what happened,” but it didn’t seem to show early. Seattle played well from the outset, capitalizing on the early pressure to net the opening goal in the 12th minute through David Estrada. The third-year player powered a header home for his first competitive goal.
“I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity given to me early on in the season,” said Estrada, who was born in Mexico and played collegiately at UCLA. “In my first start, to get a goal is really big for me. Not only for the team, but for myself, too.”
Coming into the match, Schmid said the only way his team was going to counter Santos’ in-season form was with mental toughness. He felt Seattle’s second goal, a header from Brad Evans, signified that steely mindset.
The tally came just two minutes after Santos had equalized through Herculez Gomez, giving the home team a big boost of confidence. While Evans freely admitted it wasn’t the cleanest goal, the US national team midfielder was happy to see it go in.
As the task shifts to the road, Evans points to Seattle’s strong record away from CenturyLink in 2011 as reason to believe the Sounders can finish the job in Torreón, Mexico.
“I think the guys are confident right now,” Evans said. “Obviously we’d like to have the shutout; we don’t want to see that one go in.
“To respond and get the second goal gives us even more confidence going down there,” Evans added. ”Like Sigi said, we know that they have to beat us.”