The Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal series returns to Seattle on Tuesday, and the Sounders will have a realistic chance at advancing.
Just keep it close.
That was Sounders FC’s aim heading into Wednesday’s first leg of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal on the road against Mexican league leaders Tigres UANL.
So while Seattle suffered a 1-0 loss, and was clearly second-best at Estadio Universitario in Monterrey, Mexico, the Sounders still have a fighting chance in the aggregate-goals series heading into Tuesday’s finale at CenturyLink Field.
“I feel good about where we’re at,” said coach Sigi Schmid. “We’re still at the beginning of our season, so I don’t think it was our best soccer. Better soccer is still ahead of us, and being at home in front of our fans with a chance to advance in this tournament is where we want to be.”
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Tigres, after controlling nearly all of the game, scored the lone goal in the 74th minute when substitute Alan Pulido headed in a rebound after Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning stopped an open chance by midfielder Lucas Lobos.
The Sounders’ defense was caught watching the play hoping for an offside call that never came.
Seattle surprisingly had a decent chance to tie the game and earn a crucial away goal in the 82nd minute, but midfielder Lamar Neagle was denied by goalkeeper Enrique Palos.
The first tiebreaker in the series is goals scored on the road.
The Sounders are 2-4 against Mexican teams in the CCL — 1-2 on the road.
Seattle was lucky to get to halftime tied after absorbing nearly all the pressure in the first half. Tigres was without top forward Emanuel Villa due to a leg injury, but held huge advantages in shots (11-0) and possession (64 percent).
The first great chance for the hosts came in the third minute, as Lobos dribbled around Gspurning only to see his close-range shot cleared off the goal line by defender Leo Gonzalez.
Perhaps the best chance came in the 37th minute, but Tigres forward Luis Garcia shockingly couldn’t get a shot on target from just in front of the open net.
“We dodged a few bullets,” Schmid said. “I think they had three really good chances in the first half … and obviously we got fortunate there because they missed some chances they might normally score.”
Seattle fielded a strong lineup, which included the debut performance of defender Djimi Traore, and will need one of the biggest wins in team history to advance.
“We have confidence playing in Seattle in front of our fans,” said midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, who was suspended for Saturday’s MLS opener, “and we have the opportunity to win this thing.”