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Santos Laguna vs. Seattle Sounders: CONCACAF Champions League match preview

SEATTLE SOUNDERS at SANTOS LAGUNA
Estadio Corona, Torreón, Mexico
April 9 (CONCACAF Champions League semifinals)
Leg 2 - Santos lead 1-0 on aggregate
8 pm ET/5 pm PT (Fox Soccer, LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com)

Referee: Joel Aguilar; AR: William Torres, Juan Francisco Zumba; Fourth official: Elmer Bonilla

DOWNLOAD THE COMPLETE GAME NOTES (PDF)

A goal behind in the aggregate series, Seattle Sounders FC visit Santos Laguna in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals on Tuesday night. The series began last Tuesday in Seattle as Herculez Gomez scored the game’s lone goal in a 1-0 result for Santos. To advance to the final, Sounders FC must win while scoring two goals or more in regulation, or win 1-0 to force overtime. A draw or loss would result in elimination.

The LA Galaxy trail two-time defending champion Monterrey, 2-1, in the other semifinal, which concludes in Monterrey on April 10. The two semifinal winners will advance to the two-leg final, to be played on April 24 and May 1. The winner of the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League will earn a berth to the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco.

READ: Sounders arrive in Torreon, believe a comeback is possible

Seattle became the first MLS team to eliminate a Mexican side from the modern-era Champions League tournament when they ousted Tigres UANL in the quarterfinals. Sounders FC also became the second MLS team to win in Mexico with a 1-0 win over Monterrey in 2011.

How they got here

Sounders FC and Santos Laguna took similar paths to the semifinals. As two of three teams to win all four Group Stage matches, both Seattle and Santos lost the first leg of the quarterfinals
on the road before winning the series at home. 

Seattle started off the group stage with back-to-back 3-1 wins over Caledonia of Trinidad followed by two victories over Honduras' Marathón, winning 3-2 away and 3-1 at home. The team finished with a plus-seven goal differential and four of the five goals conceded came from the penalty spot. Sounders FC entered the knockout round as the No. 3 overall seed where they ousted Tigres, 3-2 on aggregate. 

Santos won all four of their group-stage games over Toronto FC and Salvadorian side CD Águila by a combined score of 13-1. The No. 2 overall seed, Santos faced Houston in the quarterfinals, falling 1-0 on the road and winning 3-nil at home to advance to the semifinals for the second straight year.

Last match

Herculez Gomez scored the lone goal as Seattle fell to Santos Laguna 1-0 last week. In the 54th minute, Carlos Quintero's shot from the top of the box was stopped by a diving Marcus Hahnemann, but Gomez rocketed the rebound into the top right corner of the net to put Santos up 1-0. It was Gomez's fourth goal in three career games against Sounders FC after scoring three times in the 2011-12 CCL quarterfinals. Despite not scoring, Seattle finished with 13 shots — including nine in the second half — and held the majority of possession, finishing with an 11-1 advantage in corner kicks.

READ: Eddie Johnson travels, could come off bench vs. Santos

Santos Laguna quick facts

Santos Laguna are competing in their fourth CONCACAF Champions League, and third straight after losing to Monterrey in last year's finals. Santos twice previously reached the semifinals, losing
to Mexican squads Atlante in 2008 and Cruz Azul in 2010. The club competes in the 30,000-seat Estadio Corona, which was completed in 2009 at the cost of $100 million. The first match was
a friendly between Santos Laguna and famed Brazilian club Santos FC on November 11, 2009. The sold-out crowd included Mexican president Felipe Calderón and Brazilian World Cup hero Pelé. Santos captured the 2012 Clausura title in dramatic fashion, beating Tigres in the semifinals on a pair of late goals and then defeating Monterrey in the final 3-2 on aggregate.

Santos Laguna update

Santos sit fourth in the Liga MX standings at 6-2-5 (23 points) after drawing 0-0 on Saturday against Club Tijuana. With Saturday’s draw, Santos have now gone unbeaten in their previous seven (4-0-3) league matches and are six points back of league-leading Tigres UANL at 8-0-5 (29 points). Oribe Peralta leads the team with seven goals and has recorded at least a point in each of his last four games. Gomez, who scored the lone goal in the first leg of the CCL semifinal series, is second on the team with four goals and three assists in league play.

Santos notables

The club is captained by famed goalkeeper Oswaldo Sánchez, who has 99 caps for El Tri. The attack features US international Gomez, whose career has enjoyed a resurgence in the Mexican Liga MX. He is the first player to win both an MLS Cup and a Primera División title. He has scored four goals against Seattle in CCL play, and all nine of his CCL goals were scored against MLS opponents. Mexican forward Peralta was the co-leading scorer in last year's Champions League with seven goals and scored 43 goals in all competitions, all from the run of play. The team features 11 present or former international players, including seven Mexican internationals.

Seattle/Santos links

Forward Sammy Ochoa played with Santos defender Oswaldo Alanis at Estudiantes Tecos from 2009-11. Argentine midfielder Mauro Cejas played for Newell’s Old Boys from 2005-07,
joining the team the year after Mauro Rosales left for Ajax. Seattle center back Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Santos forwards Darwin Quintero and Andrés Renteria are from Colombia. Two Santos players grew up in Northern California. Midfielder Benji Joya is from San Jose, and played youth soccer for DeAnza Force, and forward Daniel Cuevas is from Sacramento and has played for the US Under-20 national team.

READ: US U-20 Cuevas moves closer to Santos Laguna senior-team debut

The Herculez link

Santos forward Gomez played for the LA Galaxy in 2003 under Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid. Gomez was loaned to the USL Sounders in 2003, making 17 appearances with one
goal before joining the Colorado Rapids (2007-08) and Kansas City Wizards (2008-09). Overall, he scored 23 goals with 13 assists in 124 appearances in six seasons of MLS play. Gomez is a teammate of Seattle’s Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans on the US national team, earning 20 caps with five goals. He scored three goals in last year’s two-game series against Sounders FC.

Making history

The Sounders have a habit of making history in the CONCACAF Champions League. In the 2011-12 CCL, they became the second team to win on Mexican soil when they downed Monterrey 1-0 in the group stage. Dallas beat a second-choice Pumas UNAM squad one week earlier. In this year’s tournament, the Sounders became the first MLS club to oust a Mexican side from the tournament when they beat Tigres in the semifinals, 3-2 on aggregate. Seattle will now attempt to be the first MLS team to oust two Mexican teams from the tournament and just the second to make the final.

Yedlin continues strong start

DeAndre Yedlin has had a strong start to his professional career, and recently became the youngest player in club history to record an assist (19 years, 264 days). Seattle’s first Homegrown player has already become the youngest player to start, play a complete game and score a goal for the Sounders. Yedlin is one of just four players (Michael Gspurning, Hurtado and Steve Zakuani) to start every league match this season. It was more than his assist that made Yedlin’s performance at Salt Lake impressive. The 19-year-old Seattle native made a team high six tackles and two blocked shots. His 67 touches were only bested by Osvaldo Alonso (69) and he completed 72 percent of his 36 passes – a game-high 16 were intended for Alonso.