Through two 35-minute halves and ten minutes of extra time at the Toyota Soccer Center in Frisco, the same script played out again and again as three-time tournament champions (2015-17) River Plate attacked the Pacific Northwest side with the Rave Green punching back on the counter, though neither could find the breakthrough.
The incident-filled match looked destined for penalty kicks, but there was a sting in the tail as Tacoma Defiance-signed forward Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez had one final lung-bursting run in the tank, latching onto a through ball and slotting past River Plate goalkeeper Lautaro Fontan with just seconds left in added time to seal a 1-0 win sending the Sounders to the semifinals, where they will face West Ham in Thursday’s GA Cup Champions Division semifinal (4:30 pm ET | Twitch).
"Throughout the whole season we’ve talked about mentality, our Sounders mentality, and how we want to play and behave on the field and I thought that came out today,” Sounders head coach Ryan Faithfull told MLSsoccer.com. "We looked lightning on the counter and always a threat on goal, but we also kept a clean sheet which was really important to us.”
Having started the tournament with a 1-0 loss to Valencia, the Sounders have entered all three subsequent matches knowing there would be no tomorrow without a result and for the third time, Ocampo-Chavez rose up at the biggest moment to score the game-winning goal.
“I saw the space open up for me and that’s what I’m good at. I found that space, attacked it and scored the goal,” said Ocampo-Chavez. "It’s very emotional because River Plate is one of the best teams in the world and this is just very big for us."
In any tournament, the goal is to peak at the right time and with Ocampo-Chavez leading the way up top, the Rave Green’s never-say-die attitude has their dream of winning the Champions Division of the GA Cup one step closer to reality after taking home the trophy in the Premier Division last year.
"Initially in the group stage, we didn’t start well and that sort of triggered us and got us into motion,” said Faithfull. "We were down against Valencia and came back into it and you could feel a sense of confidence and momentum building in the group and we’ve begun to flourish.”