CCL: Sounders' resolve rewarded with quarterfinals berth
GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – On a night when circumstances could have made it easier to give in than to press on, the Seattle Sounders refused to give up.
As a result, Sigi Schmid’s team got a vital road point on a rain-soaked night in Guatemala, fighting to a 2-2 tie against Comunicaciones to secure their place in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
The Sounders twice fought back from one goal deficits, scoring late in each half to wrench victory away from a Comunicaciones side that needed three points to maintain any realistic shot at CCL survival.
The hosts went ahead early in the first half, and again midway through the second half. But despite the Guatemalans’ best efforts, they were done in by the Sounders’ resolve – and some well-timed finishing from midfielder Osvaldo Alonso.
“I think we have the most come from behind wins of any team in our league, and we have the characteristics to come from behind,” Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid said after the match. “We maintained our calm and we were able to do what we needed to do. We got through to the next round.”
Needing only a tie from their visit to Estadio Cementos Progreso to advance, the Sounders had their work cut out for them after giving up an early goal for the second time in as many matchups this year with Comunicaciones.
The Cremas were yet to concede a goal on their home turf, pulling wins in two CCL matches until Tuesday night, but that streak was broken just before halftime when Alonso ricocheted home a shot from outside the box.
The Cuban added a second just before time in the second half to steal a point for the Sounders when a loss looked the more likely outcome.
“I’m just happy the team has qualified,” Alonso said, redirecting any credit for his match heroics. “It was a physical game and we gave up an early goal, but we were able to get back in it. The game got pretty complicated at the end, but we always were looking for the tie and we believed we could get it.”
For much of the night, it looked like the Sounders would come up on the short end despite controlling much of the play. Comunicaciones also had their share of chances in the steady rain, and when Kasey Keller spilled a corner kick in the area midway through the second half, it looked as though the Sounders were about to drop the match and complicate their chances of moving on.
But Seattle continued to pour forward and created a couple of clear chances to equalize before Álvaro Fernández teed up Alonso in the 90th minute. It was Alonso’s second of the night, but also a testament to the Sounders’ never-say-die attitude.
“That’s something that all season, even when we take the first goal, we’ve fought back,” said midfielder Lamar Neagle. “When we get behind is when we really pick it up, and tonight, that means we did what we needed to.”