By: Karen Watson
SEATTLE – Coming off a U.S. Open Cup victory and clinching a MLS playoff spot all in the last two weeks the Seattle Sounders couldn’t sustain the momentum, going down in a 2-1 loss to Costa Rican champions Saprissa in CONCACAF Champions League play.
It would have been a hollow victory for Seattle since four straight Group C losses eliminated them from the CCL but Saprissa went into tonight’s match second in the group, closely followed by Honduran side CD Marathon. The win essentially guarantees them a spot in the quarterfinals and a chance to earn another trophy to join their twenty-nine Costa Rican titles, three CONCACAF Champions Cups (predecessor to the Champions League), and five Central American crowns. Loyal Saprissa supporters turned out in impressive numbers, standing out amongst the crowd of 11,434 in their purple shirts and waving Costa Rican flags.[picappgallerysingle id=”9901298″]
Seattle’s first opportunity to dash Saprissa’s hopes came in the 6’ when Nate Jaqua set up a header just in front of goal that went wide right. But Jaqua gave the Sounders an early lead in the 17’ when he toed one in off a loose ball after Saprissa defender Jose Mena made a disastrous clearance.
Saprissa’s Jairo Arietta evened things up in the 26’ after Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller misplayed the ball, coming way out into the box in a failed sliding attempt thus leaving the net unprotected and setting up the easy goal.
More evenly matched in possession and shots during the first half, both teams moved the ball well but after the break the Ticos began pressuring Seattle with more aggressive play and capitalizing on the home side’s sporadic passing and defensive lapses.
“It’s clear we didn’t have our best game tonight. Saprissa did a good job of keeping the ball and making us chase after it. We gave them a lot of space to play,” said Seattle Coach Sigi Schmid.
Seattle had an opportunity in the 78’ to secure the lead but fresh substitute David Estrada’s header went just right of the post. Persistence is most often rewarded and the visitors got their badly needed second goal in the 87’ due to another Keller misstep after he punched away Saprissa midfielder David Guzman’s shot, deflecting it directly off the post and into the goal.
“No one is harder on Kasey than himself. He has saved us too many times I’m not gonna get on his case now, he’s a pro and he’ll sort it out.” Schmid also commented on the decision to start Keller instead of back up goalkeeper Terry Boss, particularly in an inconsequential match. “He was on the bench but Terry picked up an injury earlier in the week and something else came up today, something that has been bothering him for awhile. We decided not to chance him and (Keller) knew this morning there was the possibility he would play.”
Saprissa went a man down in the 90’ when Alexander Robinson picked up a second yellow. A man advantage and four minutes of stoppage time couldn’t resurrect the Sounders chances however. With CONCACAF play now over for Seattle, they can refocus on their home MLS playoff game on October 31.