Leave it to a pair of Seattle Sounders fighting for playing time to move their team to within one win of a second straight trip to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
Led by a goal and an assist each from Alex Caskey and Sammy Ochoa, the Sounders beat Caledonia AIA 3-1 on Thursday in Couva, Trinidad. Fredy Montero also chipped in with a goal and an assist, the fifth straight match in which he’s scored.
“They’ve done well for us and they were very timely goals,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said when asked about the play of Caskey and Ochoa. “Caskey’s right before halftime was a very important goal, a very timely goal because they had some chances before then. Ochoa scored his goal … it was well taken and got us up.”
Although the Sounders dominated the run of play, the win didn’t come easy. The first half was especially frustrating as the Sounders saw several good chances go wanting, including a wide open header that Ochoa hit right at the goalkeeper.
But Caskey’s goal in the 45th minute at least allowed them to head into halftime with something to show for their efforts. Caskey was able to redirect a ball inside the far post. The chance was set up by an Ochoa entry pass that defender Zach Scott had to win with a slide tackle, which Caskey hit first time.
“The longer it goes 0-0, the more dangerous it gets to give up a lead and then have to come back,” Caskey said. “Especially right before half, it was important for us to go in with a lead.”
Ochoa doubled that lead with his 60th minute off an assist from Montero. Ochoa took a short pass and then fired a shot from the top of the penalty area into the upper 90 that the Caledonia goalkeeper had no chance to stop.
“We were just keeping the ball and Fredy somehow found me in the box,” Ochoa said. “I took a touch inside and I saw the defender cheating, so I hit it. [I] saw the keeper cheating too so I hit it first post and it went in. I was trying to hit it on the ground anyway, but I guess it went a little higher. It was a good goal and a good play.”
That seemed like it might seal the result for the Sounders, but Caledonia pulled one back when Kareem Joseph converted a penalty in the 66th minute. Montero wasted little time in building the lead back up, though, scoring just three minutes later. It was the fifth straight game in which Montero has scored.
The Sounders now sit atop Group 4 with six points and a +4 goal-differential in two games. Their final two group stage games are against Honduras’ Marathon. A win in one game or a tie in both would guarantee the Sounders’ advancement.
“Being able to control our destiny is really important,” Schmid said. “We can look at the next game when it comes up against Marathon in Honduras and we can decide where we’re at — where we’re at physically. Is that the game where we push and try and lock it up in that game because we’ve shown ourselves to be good on the road? Last year in the group stage we didn’t lose on the road.
So we can push for that or we can say, ‘Let’s get ready,’ because maybe we need some points in league at that stage. So maybe we’ll play a little different team in Honduras and we’ll push for it when we play at home in the last week of the season. We can analyze a little bit and decide which game we’re going to push for that victory.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.