SEATTLE — Only one team can be first.
When it comes to a MLS team eliminating a Mexican opponent in the current format of CONCACAF Champions League, no one can say they did it before the Seattle Sounders, who topped Tigres UANL 3-1 on Wednesday to advance to the semifinals by a 3-2 aggregate scoreline.
“It feels great,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “We wanted to win. We felt we could win. We felt we could step up the pressure and do much better than we did down there. We’re very proud of what the guys accomplished and to be first is a very good thing.”
It wasn't all smiles, though, as the Sounders did not make it easy on themselves.
Not only did they come into the match with a 1-0 deficit from the first leg of the series, they made it even worse by surrendering the first goal in this game. That meant the Sounders would have to score at least three goals, something only one other MLS team when facing a Mexican opponent at any stage in the tournament.
Based on their first half performance – which prompted a halftime speech in which Schmid admitted to using “a lot of words that I can’t repeat here” – that seemed an unlikely proposition.
“I wasn’t too happy with how we played in the first half,” Schmid continued. “I wasn’t too happy with some individual efforts which we sort of identified very directly. But we also said ‘this was how we’re going to play in the second half. This is what I need.’
“I think you saw Steve Zakuani step up in the second half. Obviously DeAndre stepped up. ‘Three goals is very possible. Three goals is not impossible. We can score three goals, let’s go do it.’”
While obviously not impossible, this was a very similar situation in which the Sounders fell short in previous years, perhaps making it fitting that Traoré and Yedlin, two players unburdened by history, helped fuel the comeback.
"Tonight I think that we showed the character of our team,” Traoré said. “We were all disappointed with ourselves in the first half because we knew we hadn't done enough, but we came out in the second half with more determination and more desire. I think that was the difference."