SEATTLE – The Seattle Sounders’ 2-2 draw against Club America in their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals matchup at CenturyLink Field on Tuesday night certainly wasn’t lacking in entertainment.
The fast-paced, back-and-forth contest nonetheless leaves the Sounders facing an uphill battle when they head to Mexico City for the second leg of the series on March 2 (8 pm ET).
Seattle were afforded a first-half lead following a gorgeous bending free kick off the foot of forward Clint Dempsey that snuck by Club America goalkeeper Hugo Gonzales just before halftime. But the Sounders relinquished almost immediately off a finish from Darwin Quintero – a lapse that Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid pointed to as particularly deflating and preventable in his postgame remarks to reporters.
“The first goal [was more deflating],” Schmid said. “You take a lead right before halftime, you’ve got to go in 1-0 at halftime. That’s just a rule. We were a little too aggressive, a little too open in the back at that point.”
Dempsey gave the Sounders the lead again just after second-half kickoff, heading home a corner delivered by Andreas Ivanschitz. But, once again, the Sounders couldn’t hold the lead, conceding a second equalizer, this time to Oribe Peralta in the 70th minute, giving Club America two all-important away goals heading into the second leg.
Even so, Schmid and Sounders captain Brad Evans said they were pleased with their team’s overall performance, considering the circumstances. The Sounders were playing in their first competitive match of 2016 against a quality, heavily favored Club America side that are already seven games into their season.
“I can’t say enough about the effort our team put in,” Schmid said. “When you’re considering this our first real game of the year and they’re playing their eighth, I thought our guys did really well.”
Added Evans: “For our first 90 minutes since the last game of last year, I was happy with the way we pressured, and I was happy with some of the fluidity up front. They’re a really, really, really good team. “
The Sounders now have a tall order awaiting them.
Mexican teams have historically dominated the tournament, with defending champion Club America accounting for six CCL titles on their own. Schmid, however, says the past doesn’t concern his team as they prepare to head to Mexico.
“History is there for you to look at. History is also there to be broken,” Schmid said. “If we just look at history and say, ‘That’s how it goes,’ then we can stay here. We don’t even need to get on the plane. We’re getting on the plan, we’re down there to play and to win to put us through.”