The Seattle Sounders were in position to advance past Club America and into the semifinals of the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League, but the moment – once again – was fleeting.
Seattle took a 3-2 aggregate lead in the 41st minute of the second-leg showdown Wednesday night at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City after a cross from midfielder Ozzie Alonso deflected off Club America defender Pablo Aguilar and trickled into the goal, briefly making an improbable quarterfinals upset seem like it might be a possibility.
But as was the case in the first leg of the series last Tuesday, the Sounders coughed up the lead just seconds later, conceding a near-immediate equalizer to Club America’s Darwin Quintero in an eventual 3-1 loss and 5-3 aggregate decision.
“I think we were good for the first 41 minutes,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said after the game. “After that, goals change the game. We’ve had three leads in the two games, and our leads have lasted like three minutes.
“We knew we would have to dodge a few bullets and we’d have to defend well. And I thought we did that [to start]. But we needed to give ourselves that opportunity by going in at halftime with the lead.”
The blown lead would predictably come back to haunt the Sounders, as Oribe Peralta scored the go-ahead tally in first-half stoppage time and Andres Andrade headed home the insurance in the 55th minute to seal the victory.
“Again, we concede right away [after taking the lead],” Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. “In a matter of a few minutes, two goals. That obviously completely changes the game. Instead of going into half 1-0, we’re down 2-1, and it’s demoralizing.”
The result made for a disheartening end to a CCL run for a Seattle team that has emphasized the importance of the tournament in establishing the club’s global relevance.
The odds were admittedly stacked against the Sounders, who were playing just their second competitive game against a powerhouse Club America side – already well into the Liga MX season – in one of the most hostile road environments in CONCACAF.
“They have better understanding and cohesion because they’ve played many more games together than we have,” Schmid said. “We have new players on our team, a new formation, guys are trying to get used to each other. So that hurts a little bit.”
With their CCL dreams dashed, the Sounders now turn their focus to the start of the MLS regular season, which they kick off at CenturyLink Field against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday (7 pm ET; FS1).