BY: Karen Watson
SEATTLE – In their first trip to the CONCACAF quarterfinals, Seattle gained the initial edge with a 2-1 victory over visiting Mexican side Santos Lagunas.
Forward David Estrada opened up the scoring in the 12’, with a beautiful header off a long ball hit by Fredy Montero from midfield. Team captain Mauro Rosales set up several good chances in the first half, a well placed cross in the 4’ meant for Montero, quickly followed by a shot on goal in the 5’ but the ball was scooped up by Santos keeper Oswaldo Sanchez.
Sounders midfielder Alvaro Fernandez had a terrific chance in the 40’ driving the ball in from thirty yards out and sending it curving towards the upper right corner, but Sanchez just managed to punch it away.
Although both teams looked a bit sluggish in the first half, the Sounders managed to dominate possession and relegated Santos to playing inside their own half for much of the first forty-five minutes. New Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning wasn’t really tested until stoppage time by a shot on goal from Santos midfielder Juan Pablo Rodriguez that went bouncing over the back of the net.
Santos forward Herculez Gomez evened the score in the 61’ when he was left unmarked by Sounders defender Leo Gonzalez in front of goal. But Seattle quickly answered with a goal in the 63’ from Brad Evans, headed in off a Rosales free kick.
Tempers flared in the closing minutes of the match as Santos kept pressuring in their attempt to secure another goal. Referee Walter Quesada issued several yellow cards during the last fifteen minutes, including one to Santos’ goalkeeper for dissent. Seattle was successful in shutting down the visitors however and secured the 2-1 win.
While Santos Laguna is resting in fourth in the Mexican Clausura and recently broke a three game losing streak with a home win over San Luis, they are one of the strongest teams left in the CONCACAF tournament. Claiming the title of scoring leaders during the group stages with sixteen goals, five more than their closest competition, their only loss was to fellow quarterfinalists Metapan.
The Sounders travel to Mexico to face Santos in the quarterfinal second leg on March 14 where they will need to tally some away goals to advance to the semi-final stage on aggregate. “They guys are confident right now. Obviously, we would like to see the shut out. We aren’t scared going down there now, we know that they have to beat us and we have played well everywhere we have gone in the tournament.” commented Evans after the match. Immediately following their return they face Toronto FC for their MLS home opener on March 17.