They didn’t make it easy on themselves, but the Seattle Sounders have qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
Despite blowing a pair of leads and giving up a pair of penalties, the Sounders punched their ticket for a second straight year by beating Marathón 3-2 on Wednesday in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
Brad Evans picked up the winner with a header from an Osvaldo Alonso cross in the 78th minute, about 10 minutes after entering the match. Sammy Ochoa and Eddie Johnson had previously given the Sounders leads, but this one actually stuck.
The Sounders looked dominant for large stretches of the first half, controlling the bulk of the possession and creating numerous chances. They got something to show for their efforts when Ochoa broke the deadlock with his third Champions League goal of the year, scoring on a header in the 11th minute. Ochoa was able to find some space between Marathón defenders to nod Mario Martinez’s left-footed cross inside the near post.
The Sounders appeared to take a 2-0 lead in the 30th minute when Zach Scott outjumped the Marathón goalkeeper to put the ball in the back of the net. Despite appearing to jump straight up, though, he was called for a foul and the goal was waved off.
Johnson also had a few chances to score, but was unable to convert any of them. His best chance came almost immediately after Scott’s disallowed goal when he was through on the goalkeeper. But instead of firing a quick shot, he tried the cut the ball back, allowing a defender to hit the ball out of bounds.
Those missed chances proved costly. In the 34th minute, Mitchell Brown got behind the Sounders defense and was taken down in the penalty area by goalkeeper Michael Gspurning. Mario Berrios then stepped up and converted the penalty to tie the score 1-1. It was the third time in as many CCL games that the Sounders have allowed a penalty.
Although Marathón fired off 13 shots in the first half, they only forced Gspurning to make two saves and were mostly content to fire away from outside the penalty area.
Marathón controlled far more of the possession in the second half, forcing the Sounders to mostly limit their offense to counterattacks. Johnson’s goal in the 62nd minute came on one such chance as he chested down an Andy Rose pass and then struck a right-footed shot inside the near post.
That lead was short-lived, though, as Berrios converted a second penalty in the 68th minute.
In a sign of how determined they were to put the group away, the Sounders’ final sub was Fredy Montero. He immediately helped the Sounders hold possession and just two minutes after he entered Evans picked up the game-winner.
The Sounders are now 3-0-0 with a plus-five goal differential in their group, joining Mexican powers Monterrey and Santos Laguna as the only perfect teams.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Sammy Ochoa||Seattle's striker set the tone for his club early, helping spread the field and creating a number of quality chances.|
|2||Eddie Johnson||Wasn't efficient with his chances early, but came out strong in the second half and buried home Seattle's second of three goals.|
|3||Randy Diamond||Marathon's crafty striker was a pest for Seattle all night, creating countless opportunities for his mates.|