GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – A heroic performance from Osvaldo Alonso gave the Seattle Sounders their first-ever ticket to the knockout stages of the CONCACAF Champions League, as the MLS side clawed to a 2-2 draw against hosts Comunicaciones on Tuesday night.
Needing only a point to get through to the knockout rounds, a pair of goals from the midfielder – the first just before halftime and the second coming in the 90th minute – rescued a hard-fought point.
Alonso’s brace cancelled out an early goal from Comunicaciones forward Tránsito Montepeque and a second-half tally from defender Rafael Morales.
Last time these teams met – in Seattle in August – the Guatemalan side was ahead after three minutes in a game the MLS team went on to win. This time out, on a rainy evening in Guatemala City, the Sounders were behind after only six minutes.
A defensive miscommunication – aided by a potential offside call which the referee’s assistant decided not to make – allowed Montepeque in alone on Kasey Keller’s goal. With Keller closing in, the Guatemalan coolly pulled up at the 18 and chipped the ball off the crossbar and into the net for the early lead.
The Sounders nearly got the goal back after just three minutes, when Fredy Montero’s wicked volley had to be saved brilliantly by Comunicaciones ‘keeper J.J. Paredes.
But the home team had the better of possession for the time being, and nearly went up a pair after 19 minutes, when midfielder Carlos Mejía maneuvered a bicycle kick off the post from close range after a goalmouth scramble.
Mejía had another golden chance a few minutes later. Another cross up between the Sounders center backs allowed him to slip through on the wing, but he pushed his effort just wide of Keller’s post.
Half an hour in, the Sounders finally settled in and began to control the tempo a little more comfortably, working the ball around the Cremas’ area. At the 30 minute mark, Montero slipped a shot across the area from 20 yards, but a diving Paredes managed to push it wide.
But the Sounders would get the equalizer they had been pushing for on the stroke of halftime. Alonso, who had been trying his luck from distance on the wet turf, gathered in a weak clearance off a Seattle corner and ripped a shot into the box that took a deflection and found the back of the net.
The light rain had turned to a steady downpour by the time the second half kicked off, but the inclement weather didn’t slow the game’s frenetic pace.
The first clear chance to break the deadlock came in the 61st minute, when a breaking Álvaro Fernández lofted a perfectly weighted ball to Mike Fucito on the right wing. Fucito brought the ball down well, but cracked his left-footed shot right at Paredes.
Just four minutes later, Comunicaciones had the lead again. Keller failed to handle a corner, colliding with one of his defenders and depositing the ball clumsily at the six. Morales pounced quickly on the loose ball and lashed it home, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.
The home team defended steadily, but the Sounders had a first chance to rescue a point five minutes from time, when Montero pulled up from 20 yards and hit the crossbar with a looping shot.
Fernández gathered in the rebound, sidestepped a defender and was preparing to shoot when he looked to be bundled over in the area by a defender, but referee Roberto García was unimpressed.
The Sounders finally struck again just before time, as Fernández redirected a cross to Alonso, who drilled a shot home from close range to quiet the home crowd and send the MLS side through to the knockout rounds.
The point sees Seattle – who became the first team in this year's tournament to book a spot to the knockout stages – stay atop Group D with 10 points, one point above Mexican side Monterrey, who beat Costa Rica’s Herediano 1-0 also on Tuesday night.
With the result, the Sounders remain out of reach from Comunicaciones, who stayed at third with six points.
Seattle will close out their group stage when they host Monterrey in Seattle on Oct. 18.
COM - Transito Montepeque (Carlos Mejia) 7'
SEA - Osvaldo Alonso 44'
COM - Rafael Morales 64'
SEA - Osvaldo Alonso 89'
COM - Erwin Morales (caution; Reckless Tackle) 75'
SEA - Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (caution; Foul) 87'
CSD Comunicaciones - Juan Paredes, Rafael Morales, Erwin Morales, Carlos Mejia, Dagoberto Arriola, Edgar Martinez, Bryan Ordonez (Abner Trigueros 77'), Carlos Ramirez, Fredy Thompson, Rigoberto Gomez (Jose Del Aguila 45'), Transito Montepeque (Marvin Ceballos 58').
Substitutes Not Used: Elias Vasquez, Marco Ciani, David Guerra, Hernan Sandoval.
Seattle Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, Zach Scott, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Tyson Wahl, Alvaro Fernandez, Osvaldo Alonso, Erik Friberg (Servando Carrasco 74'), Lamar Neagle (Nate Jaqua 92+), Mike Fucito (Sammy Ochoa 66'), Fredy Montero.
Substitutes Not Used: David Estrada, Taylor Graham, Josh Ford, Amadou Sanyang.
Referee: Roberto Garcia
Referee's Assistants: Alejandro Ayala; Victor Calderon
4th Official: Jorge Gasso
Time of Game: 1:50
Weather: Chance of showers/thunderstorm