By Money Mike
The Seattle Sounders were up 2-1 on aggregate going into the away leg against Santos Laguna, but Santos came right back and knocked the Sounders out of the Champions League. Not only did the Sounders get eliminated, they got owned. Santos won the second leg by a final count of 6-1 and won the series 7-3 on aggregate. I know this was not going to be easy. I know that Santos were the favorites to move on, but did I think that it would end like this? Well, no I didn't. Seattle kicks off their 2012 MLS campaign this Saturday at home against Toronto FC, who by the way, just knocked the Los Angeles Galaxy out of the Champions League.
Santos got things going early in the match. In the 8th minute, Cristian Suarez looked like he was well defended at first, but he fired a low left foot drive past Michael Gspurning and into the low left corner. Two minutes later, Santos struck again. This time it was Oribe Peralta fighting off Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and slotting it home for the goal to make it 2-0 Santos in the second leg and 3-2 Santos on aggregate. It was Peralta's 5th goal of the tournament. Seattle did manage to regroup though. Doing a better job at keeping possession and creating a couple of chances to pull level in the series and in the 37th minute, they did just that. Fredy Montero's curling ball found Alvaro Fernandez for the goal that leveled the series up at 3-3. The momentum looked like it shifted Seattle's way after that goal.
Unfortunately, the momentum was lost and things got ugly for the Sounders in the second half. In the second half, it was Herculez Gomez off a feed from Cristian Suarez to put Santos back up on aggregate. Gomez would add another one in the 68th minute. Cristian Suarez would then add his second goal in the 76th minute. And then Santos would add one more in the 81st minute from Carlos Ochoa. The Sounders 2011-12 Champions League campaign is over, tough way to start the 2012 season.
Again, it's a tough way for Sigi Schmid and his team to end your Champions League run. I'd still give the Sounders credit. In their first season in the Champions League in 2010-11, they finished last place in group play, only finishing with three points. In 2011-12, I just wondered how far they could go, if they're good enough to compete in their group and looking at their group prior to their first match against Comunicaciones, I thought maybe they do have a chance here and they ended up finishing second in the group with 10 points. I wasn't too pleased with the result, but like I said, I'm impressed with their performance overall in the Champions League and I'm looking forward to watching them compete in MLS this season.
On my last preview, I said that the altitude could play a factor here in the second leg and I have to say, it really got to the Sounders in this game. The defense got caught on a few breaks. Fredy Montero, really struggled this series despite picking up two assists. Mauro Rosales and Alvaro Fernandez were the only ones who looked alive in this game. Soccer players in America are taught to play under a low altitude, not high altitude and a 90 degree temperature. That's why I'd prefer playing in a cold environment.
This team's going to get better at this stage as they continue to progress. Will this loss effect their confidence? No. We have a team that can compete and will compete for the Championship and it's easy to believe that with the Sounders right now than it was with the Mariners about a couple of years ago. You would have to be a stupid ignorant moron to deny the fact that the Sounders are one of the teams to beat in Major League Soccer.
Santos Laguna - Cristian Suarez (unassisted) 8'
Santos Laguna - Oribe Peralta (Daniel Luduena) 10'
Seattle Sounders FC - Alvaro Fernandez (Fredy Montero) 37'
Santos Laguna - Herculez Gomez (Cristian Suarez) 49'
Santos Laguna - Herculez Gomez (Oribe Peralta, Jorge Estrada) 68'
Santos Laguna - Cristian Suarez (Jorge Estrada) 76'
Santos Laguna - Carlos Ochoa (unassisted) 81'
* Santos Laguna advances 7-3 on aggregate.
Seattle Sounders FC - Leonardo Gonzalez (caution; foul) 14'
Seattle Sounders FC - Fredy Montero (caution; handball) 30'
Santos Laguna - Oribe Peralta (caution; dissent) 41'
Santos Laguna - Felipe Baloy (caution; fight) 45'
Santos Laguna - Juan Pablo Rodriguez (caution; foul) 80'
Seattle Sounders FC - Michael Gspurning; Adam Johansson, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leonardo Gonzalez (Christian Sivebaek 77'); Mauro Rosales, Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Alvaro Fernandez; David Estrada (Eddie Johnson 62', Roger Levesque 81'), Fredy Montero
Santos Laguna - Oswaldo Sanchez; Jorge Estrada, Aaron Galindo, Felipe Baloy, Osmar Mares; Marc Crosas (Rodolfo Salinas 33'), Juan Pablo Rodriguez, Daniel Luduena (Candido Ramirez 63'); Cristian Suarez, Herculez Gomez (Carlos Ochoa 69'), Oribe Peralta