SEATTLE – The Seattle Sounders’ CONCACAF Champions League bugaboo was back to haunt them yet again in the first leg of their semifinal series against Santos Laguna at CenturyLink Field on Tuesday night.
A little more than a year after scoring three of Santos’ seven aggregate goals in a quarterfinal victory, American striker Herculez Gomez tallied the game’s only goal in the second half to give the Mexican side an all-important away goal and a 1-0 series lead over Seattle ahead of the decisive second leg next Tuesday, April 9, in Torreón.
Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid fielded a lineup that was missing injury casualties Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson, while Mauro Rosales and Steve Zakuani started on the bench, leaving Sammy Ochoa to go it alone up front and allowing Shalrie Joseph to make his first Seattle appearance. Zach Scott and Leo González also came in for Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Marc Burch on the backline.
Santos, meanwhile, made just one change from a weekend draw vs. Querétaro, inserting Juan Pablo Rodríguez into the midfield and keeping their imposing attacking trio of Darwin Quintero, Oribe Peralta and Gomez intact.
OPTA Chalkboard: Sounders fail to find any chances in the final third
For the first 20 minutes, the Sounders acquitted themselves well, controlling the pace of the game and keeping the potent Santos front line from finding any rhythm. However, they failed to create any clear-cut chances themselves without their own attacking firepower, and the Mexican side began to probe on the break when Seattle’s passing broke down.
The game’s first real opportunity came in the 25th minute when Osvaldo Alonso’s giveaway in the center of the field sprung the ever-dangerous Quintero and Gomez for a 2-v-3 situation. However, the US international dragged his shot wide after receinving the ball in space.
Just three minutes later, another giveaway – this time by Mario Martínez – allowed Quintero to lead the break once again. This time he drove into the penalty area, cut back toward the middle of the field and found Rodolfo Salinas at the top of the box only to see the midfielder’s shot nestle in Marcus Hahnemann’s stomach.
Seattle werent’t done providing Los Guerreros with opportunities, either, as Scott got in on the action with another misplaced pass a minute later, allowing Osmar Mares to burst down the left flank and drive another shot directly at the Sounders 'keeper.
Meanwhile, the home side’s best chance of the half came in the 45th minute, when Martínez drove to the endline and pulled the ball back across the box for Alonso to shank wide. Fortunately for the defensive midfielder, the ball was ruled out of bounds to spare him an epic miss.
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Neither side made a change at the half, and the goal arrived nearly 10 minutes into the period after Seattle was pulled apart following a goal kick. Quintero was the primary actor yet again, driving toward the top of the box and unleashing a shot that Hahnemann could only parry.
The rebound bounced into the path of Gomez, who lashed a first-time, right-footed shot first time into the upper side netting before Hahnemann could even rise to his feet. It was his ninth CCL goal in nine appearances against MLS sides for Santos and fourth in three games vs. Seattle.
Forced to chase the game, Schmid inserted Rosales and Zakuani into the match, but neither could provide the moment of brilliance necessary to tie things up. Seattle’s best hope came in the 86th minute when Scott nodded down Martínez’s cross directly at Santos goalkeeper Oswaldo Sánchez.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Darwin Quintero||Santos' primary attacking threat. Caused havoc for the Sounders and took the shot that led to Gomez's goal|
|2||Felipe Baloy||Seattle had two tame shots on goal and couldn't get anything going from set pieces, and lots of those struggles were thanks to Baloy's stellar work|
|3||DeAndre Yedlin||Acquitted himself well once more, getting up and down the field, defending smartly and connecting well on the attacking end|