SEATTLE – Few people expected David Estrada to score first. Even fewer expected him to score on a header.
Seattle’s diminutive striker scored his first professional goal at an opportune time, staking the Sounders to a 1-0 lead en route to a 2-1 victory on Wednesday night in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series. Santos Laguna striker Herculez Gomez and Seattle’s Brad Evans traded goals two minutes apart in the second half in front of 23,433 fans at CenturyLink Field.
The Sounders will try to keep the slim one-goal lead during next week’s deciding match in Torreón, Mexico.
Estrada opened the scoring in the 12th minute, sneaking in at the back post to head in a well-placed cross from Fredy Montero. The goal put the exclamation point on a spirited opening from the home side, which controlled possession at the outset.
Already holding a 1-0 lead, Seattle nearly had another in the 18th minute as Santos Laguna goalkeeper Oswaldo Sánchez had to pounce to deny Montero’s header from an Adam Johansson cross. After yielding the majority of possession for the first half hour, Santos seized the momentum for the final 15 minutes of the first half, but failed to tally before the break.
The halftime stats showed a 52.2 percent advantage in possession for Seattle, with Santos holding a slight 7-6 advantage in shots.
The visitors tied the score in the 61st minute. Gomez, who played for the Seattle Sounders of the United Soccer League in 2003, controlled a Marc Crosas pass in the penalty area after making a darting diagonal run in front of left back Leo Gonzalez. The US national team striker turned and finished from a sharp angle to give the visitors an important away goal.
Seattle wasted little time, answering through Evans. The midfielder battled off a Santos defender to finish a Mauro Rosales set piece in the six-yard box, restoring Seattle’s one-goal lead.
From there, the Sounders looked content to hold the lead in their first competitive match of the season. Eddie Johnson made his Seattle debut, coming on in the 78th minute for Álvaro Fernández, and glanced a dangerous header wide in the 80th minute.
Michael Gspurning made four saves in his first competitive action as a Sounder. Seven yellow cards were handed out in the hard-fought affair, four to the Sounders. The two teams meet again March 14 (Fox Soccer, 8 pm PT) for a spot in the semifinals.