The Sounders took a solid first step toward advancement in the CONCACAF Champions League by beating Santos Laguna 2-1 in the first leg of a quarterfinal.
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Against a talented opponent, Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid knew a strong team mentality was going to be key Wednesday night against Mexico’s Santos Laguna.
That proved to be true in more ways than he thought.
Four of Seattle’s starters, and a general manager, arrived very late to CenturyLink Field due to heavy traffic on I-90 stemming from a car accident further up the highway. With Fredy Montero, Osvaldo Alonso, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Michael Gspurning not able to make it to the stadium until about a half-hour before kickoff, Schmid at one point contemplated changing his lineup.
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But while some of those players were somewhat rattled and not fully warmed up, the coach stuck with the original starting group — and it paid off. The Sounders took a solid first step toward advancement in the CONCACAF Champions League by beating Santos 2-1 in the first leg of a quarterfinal.
“As we always say, whatever the obstacles are, we’re just going to deal with them,” Schmid said. “We deal with the adversity and we move on.”
David Estrada and Brad Evans scored the goals for Seattle in front of 23,433 fans to essentially give the Sounders a “halftime” lead in the series.
The two-game, aggregate-goals quarterfinal will be settled on March 14 in Torreon, Mexico, where Santos is 4-0 in the tournament. Kickoff is at 5 p.m. and the Sounders are confident they can hold the lead.
“Nobody’s scared of going down there, that’s for sure,” said Evans.
It was Evans who had the deciding goal in the 63rd minute, when he leapt high to head in a crossed free kick from midfielder Mauro Rosales. The score came just two minutes after Santos had tied the score on a goal by forward Herculez Gomez, a U.S. international and former A-League Sounder in 2003.
“It’s a character that we displayed last year,” Schmid said of quickly answering the Santos goal. “It’s a character that still sits within this team.”
The visitors pushed for a late equalizer and had a good chance in the 77th minute, but a driven shot by forward Christian Suarez was stopped by Seattle goalkeeper Gspurning — the last of his four saves.
Santos then had a shot by midfielder Candido Ramirez roll wide in the 88th minute and didn’t capitalize on a couple half chances in stoppage time.
The Sounders will have to hope for more of the same next week.
“We have to go in there with the same mentality that we brought to the field today,” said Rosales.
The Sounders started the game off strong, controlling the first few minutes, and justly earned a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute. Montero provided the service on a carefully placed cross to the far post, where Estrada confidently headed in a shot past Santos goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez.
It was the first professional goal for Estrada, Seattle’s top draft pick in 2010. After two years without much of a first-team impact, the 24-year-old worked his way into the starting lineup this preseason and showed why with the early strike.
“To get a goal is really big for me,” Estrada said.
And big for the team.
“To walk away with a victory was important, because it means next week they have to beat us — a tie isn’t going to be good enough,” said Schmid.
• Wednesday’s crowd was the largest in team history for a CCL match. The previous record was 22,514 set in August 2010 against Mexican club Monterrey.
• Forward Eddie Johnson made his debut for the Sounders in the 78th minute as a second-half replacement for Alvaro Fernandez. New defender Marc Burch also saw his first time as a sub for Estrada in stoppage time.
• Sounders FC defender Zach Scott was suspended for the game due to yellow-card accumulation last year in the group stage.
• Seattle’s MLS opener is here on March 17 against Toronto FC at 7 p.m.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or email@example.com
|Santos Laguna (Mexico)||0 1 — 1|
|Seattle Sounders FC||1 1 — 2|
First half — 1, Seattle, D. Estrada (F. Montero, L. Gonzalez), 12th minute. Second half — 2, Santos Laguna, H. Gomez (M. Crosas), 61′. 3, Seattle, B. Evans (M. Rosales), 63′. Shots — Santos 12, Seattle 11. Shots on goals — Santos 5, Seattle 4. Saves — Seattle 4, Santos 2. Fouls — Seattle 19, Santos 17. Corner kicks — Santos 5, Seattle 4. Offsides — Santos 3, Seattle 0. Yellow cards — Seattle: Hurtado, Gonzalez. Santos: Sanchez, Hoyos, Mares. Officials (Costa Rica) — Referee, Walter Quesada; assistant referees, Leonel Leal, Octavio Jaral; fourth official, Jeffrey Solis. A — 23,433
Sounders FC starters — GK Michael Gspurning, D Adam Johansson, D Jeff Parke, D Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, D Leo Gonzalez, M Mauro Rosales, M Osvaldo Alonso, M Brad Evans, M Alvaro Fernandez, F Fredy Montero, F David Estrada. Sounders bench: Patrick Ianni, Eddie Johnson, Marc Burch, Servando Carrasco, Roger Levesque, Christian Sivebaek, Andrew Weber
Santos Laguna starters — GK Oswaldo Sanchez, D Ivan Estrada, D Aaron Galindo, D Santiago Hoyos, D Osmar Mares, M Marc Crosas, M Juan Pablo Rodriguez, M Daniel Luduena, F Christian Suarez, F Herculez Gomez, F Oribe Peralta. Santos bench: Carlos Ochoa, Cesar Ibanez, Rodolfo Salinas, Miguel Becerra, Antonio Olvera, Candio Ramirez, Alberto Garcia.