The Seattle Sounders rounded out the Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 first legs for MLS teams on Thursday night, as the 2019 MLS Cup winners battled to a 2-2 draw with Olimpia in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
Seattle held a 2-0 lead through two-thirds of the match, but a pair of close-range finishes from Olimpia forward Yustin Arboleda prevented the visitors from returning to CenturyLink Field with a best-case-scenario result. They did secure two vital away goals, though.
The scoring began in the 6th minute via newcomer Joao Paulo, who played as Seattle’s No. 10 with normal maestro Nicolas Lodeiro out with hamstring tendinitis. The Brazilian midfielder headed home a chipped cross from Jordan Morris for a 1-0 lead, only for Morris to make it 2-0 in the 54th minute when he laced home a rebound following Joevin Jones’s curling effort.
The Sounders’ defensive wall first broke in the 63rd minute, when Arboleda tapped home from near range to make it 2-1 after some incisive dribbling down the flank. The Hondurans then found their equalizer in the 81st minute, when Arboleda headed home a cross that left Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei scrambling.
Were it not for a sprawling save from Frei in 49th minute, the complexion of the match could have looked drastically different. There's also consideration for Arboleda only seeing yellow in the 25th minute, when he arrived studs up into Frei's rib cage by challenging for the ball on a free kick.
- 6' – SEA – Joao Paulo | WATCH
- 54' – SEA – Jordan Morris | WATCH
- 63' – OLI – Yustin Arboleda | WATCH
- 81' – OLI – Yustin Arboleda | WATCH
- THE BIG PICTURE: The Sounders find themselves in an identical CCL situation to the Montreal Impact, who settled for a 2-2 draw with Saprissa on Wednesday night after taking a two-goal lead. They’re still favored in the return leg at home, though it’ll be important to track the injury status of both Nicolas Lodeiro and Gustav Svensson. The regular starters missed the match in Honduras, and their inclusion would surely alter the lineup head coach Brian Schmetzer deploys.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: The questionable yellow card to Yustin Arboleda for launching a flying kick to Stefan Frei’s ribs merits discussion, but so does the goal Joao Paulo supplied. The Designated Player has the potential to take Seattle to another level in 2020, and fans got their first official glimpse at what he’ll provide. His goal was well-taken, and he oozed class during his 79-minute performance.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: There’s something cathartic about Jordan Morris getting a goal and an assist during a CCL game nearly two years removed from suffering a long-term knee injury in this same tournament. Both games came in Central America, and the US men’s national team forward’s contributions buoyed Seattle on a frenetic night in Honduras.
- Olimpia: Sunday, Feb. 23 vs. Marathon, Liga Nacional (5 pm ET )
- Seattle Sounders: Thursday, Feb. 27 vs. Olimpia, Concacaf Champions League Round of 16, 2nd leg (10 pm ET | FS2, TUDNxtra 1)
Olimpia (4-4-2, left to right): Edrick Menjivar – Ever Alvarado, Jonathan Paz, Johnny Leveron, German Mejia – Edwin Rodriguez, Deybi Flores, Carlos Pineda (73' Matias Garrido), Jose Pinto (58' Cristian Maidana) – Jerry Bengtson (69' Jorge Benguche), Yustin Arboleda
Seattle Sounders FC (4-2-3-1, left to right): Stefan Frei – Nouhou Tolo, Xavier Arreaga, Yeimar Gomez Andrade, Kelvin Leerdam — Cristian Roldan, Jordy Delem – Jordan Morris (84' Alex Roldan), Joao Paulo (79' Danny Leyva), Joevin Jones (69' Shane O'Neill) – Raul Ruidiaz