Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sounders pull off an incredible comeback and come away with a historic CCL Quarterfinal series win

By Money Mike


The Seattle Sounders came into this game down 1-0 on aggregate and in need of a two goal victory. And that's exactly what happened. Down 1-0 at the half and 2-0 on aggregate, the Sounders came through with three spectacular goals in the second half to defeat Tigres 3-1 in the second leg and 3-2 on aggregate to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinal where they will play Santos Laguna in a rematch of last years Champions League Quarterfinal where Santos punished the Sounders 7-3 on aggregate. Santos defeated the Houston Dynamo 3-1 in their quarterfinal matchup. The Sounders also became the first MLS team to eliminate a Mexican opponent in the knockout stages of the Champions League, which is big for American soccer. Seattle returns to league action this Saturday when they host the Portland Timbers.

The first chance of the game came in the 16th minute when Steve Zakuani fed Eddie Johnson who drifted to the right hand side. Johnson chipped the ball into the penalty area, which took a deflection, but found Sammy Ochoa for a free header that just missed by a yard.

A minute later, Tigres beat the offside trap and nearly made the Sounders pay for it. Jonathan Bornstein, the ex-Chivas USA defender, slid the ball through to Alan Pulido who was kept onside by Djimi Traore. Pulido tried to toe poke the ball into the far corner with the outside of his right foot, but Michael Gspurning got his left hand to it to deflect it wide for a corner. A lot of fans thought Pulido was offside, including myself, but it was actually a good no call by the linesman because he was even with the last defender (Traore) when the ball was played.

In the 23rd minute, the Sounders backline got caught again and this time Tigres capitalized and drew first blood. Bornstein slid the ball forward looking for Alberto Acosta who was battling DeAndre Yedlin for the ball. Acosta brushed Yedlin aside and had time and space to slide the ball across to Elias Hernandez for an easy tap in to put the Liga MX Clausura leaders up 1-0 in the second leg and 2-0 on aggregate. That away goal meant the Sounders would have to score three goals to advance and against a tough Mexican team like Tigres in this stage, coming back with three goals would be a tough task for the Sounders.

Five minutes later, Hernandez nearly made it 3-0 on aggregate. Abraham Stringel chipped the ball forward to Alan Pulido who did very well to hold off Djimi Traore and poke it to Hernandez who gave it a go from outside the area as the momentum carried him away from goal and somehow it nearly snuck in, but Gspurning got a touch on it to deflect off the right post and out for a corner. Off the corner, the ball bounced off the leg of Traore right to Manuel Viniegra from point blank range but he hit it right at Gspurning and the Sounders dodged yet another bullet.

Seattle started to create some chances and in the 35th minute, they came real close to pulling a goal back. Ozzie Alonso fed DeAndre Yedlin on the far side. Yedlin delivered a low ball to the top of the area for Sammy Ochoa who had to reach back with his right foot because cross was behind him. So he reached back to get a foot to it and headed it for Eddie Johnson who turned and quickly struck the ball from 10 yards but the ball drifted just wide of goal. That was a big change right there, and he probably should've scored. But at the same time, it looked like EJ wasn't set as the ball bounced in front of him and it looked more like he struck the ball with a loose foot than his laces.

EJ had another chance in the 35th minute as he fed with a perfectly timed through ball by Zakuani. Johnson looked to slide the ball into the far corner with his left foot, but Tigres goalkeeper Jorge Diaz de Leon got a paw on it to deny him.

In the 45th minute, right on the stroke of halftime, this I believe was the turning point in the match. Referee Elmer Bonilla blew the play dead after Mauro Rosales was fouled. About a couple seconds later, Manuel Viniegra, who was already booked for time wasting, kicks the ball away and the referee doesn't waste anytime showing a second yellow which means he's gone and Tigres had to play the rest of the game with 10 men. The fact that he was already sitting on a yellow card, to do something that would risk getting another yellow like kicking the ball away is just plain stupid. Despite being down a man, Tigres went into the break 1-0 up in the second leg and 2-0 up on aggregate.

The Sounders continued to pour pressure on Tigres in the second half and in the 53rd minute, they got on the board in a big way. Mauro Rosales took the corner kick from the near hash mark, looking near post where Alonso was lurking but it was headed out by Jonathan Espericueta only as far as DeAndre Yedlin who steps up and volleys it low and hard into the right corner from about 30 yards out for his first goal of his professional career and more importantly gave the Sounders some life in the series as they cut the aggregate lead to 2-1.

Seven minutes later, the Sounders found the net again off another beauty from a defender. Mario Martinez, who came on shortly after the goal, was fed by DeAndre Yedlin. Martinez looked to curl the ball in before a Tigres defender came sliding in to cut down the angle, so he cut to his right foot but his touch was too heavy and the ball was cleared by Jonathan Bornstein. However, it wasn't a great clearance as Djimi Traore stepped up and cracked one from 30 yards out and the ball bounced in off the underside of the crossbar for his first Sounders goal and the Sounders leveled it up on aggregate, but Tigres still had the edge on away goals, so Seattle still needed another goal.

They nearly got that third goal two minutes later. DeAndre Yedlin whipped in an early ball for Eddie Johnson, but the ball bounced to Steve Zakuani who settled and fired a shot just over the top of the bar.

Then with 15 minutes to go in the game, the Sounders get that third goal to climb ahead on aggregate. Steve Zakuani found Eddie Johnson making a run down the left and fed him with a perfectly timed through ball. EJ beat the offside trap, raced towards goal and slid the ball underneath Jorge Diaz de Leon and into the far corner from a tight angle to complete the comeback for the Sounders as they rally with three unanswered goals in the second half to defeat Tigres 3-2 on aggragate, making them the first MLS team to eliminate a Mexican opponent in the knockout stages of the CONCACAF Champions League.


Observations:

It was good to see Eddie Johnson get a goal after a rough start to the season. In the opener, he missed a golden opportunity at an equalizer by hitting the crossbar. In the first leg against Tigres on the road, he was kept quiet most of the game as Seattle didn't really attack much in the game. He even struggled a bit in this game, missing a couple of good opportunities in the first half. So hopefully the that goal will get him going. With Fredy Montero gone, he's had to carry the load up front and may continue to carry the load for another week or two until Obafemi Martins finally lands in the Emerald City. The last thing the fans want to see is EJ sucking in 2013 after an outstanding 2012 season. He's already gone through a difficult spell in Europe, so to see him struggle in 2013 would make people think, "that sums up his career." So again, hopefully that goal gets him going, even though it's early.

Unlucky for this man not to get a goal, but all in all I thought Steve Zakuani's performance last night was excellent. His decision making was good. The timing of his passes were good as well. Again, he was unlucky not to get a goal in the match. His shot just sailing over the bar. I don't know about you guys, but I think he's all but re-discovered his old form that he was in prior to his injury.

On the defensive side, I think we're looking at a new and improved backline for the Sounders with DeAndre Yedlin and Djimi Traore. The backline has done a terrific job in the series. Both Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Djimi Traore seem to be getting along well in the center of defense, I shouldn't have to explain DeAndre Yedlin again, and Leo Gonzalez is in the best form I've seen in the last couple of years. I used to be critical about Gonzalez's one on one defending because it's been terrible, but so far he's done an excellent job, so again I think we're looking at a much improved backline for the Men in Rave Green.

We've just kicked off our fifth season and already we've had a lot of memorable moments, historic moments, etc. From the very first match in 2009, to the away victory in Monterrey in 2011, the three-peat in the U.S. Open Cup, the playoff series win over Real Salt Lake in 2012 and now last night becoming the first MLS team to eliminate a Mexican opponent in the Champions League. I was at this game, I lost my voice, but it was all worth it because I got to see this team make history and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season. I think it's gonna be one hell of a ride.


Scoring summary:

Tigres de la UANL - Elias Hernandez (Alberto Acosta, Jonathan Bornstein) 23'

Seattle Sounders FC - DeAndre Yedlin (Unassisted) 53'

Seattle Sounders FC - Djimi Traore (Unassisted) 60'

Seattle Sounders FC - Eddie Johnson (Steve Zakuani) 75'

* Seattle Sounders FC advance 3-2 on aggregate


Misconduct summary:

Seattle Sounders FC - Eddie Johnson (caution; argument) 14'

Tigres de la UANL - Jorge Diaz de Leon (caution; time wasting) 35'

Tigres de la UANL - Manuel Viniegra (caution; time wasting) 37'

Tigres de la UANL - Manuel Viniegra (caution; kicking the ball away) 45'

Tigres de la UANL - Manuel Viniegra (ejection; second yellow) 45'

Seattle Sounders FC - Osvaldo Alonso (caution; foul) 48'

Tigres de la UANL - Elias Hernandez (caution; foul) 81'

Seattle Sounders FC - Steve Zakuani (caution; time wasting) 82'

Seattle Sounders FC - Michael Gspurning (caution; time wasting) 86'


Lineups:

Tigres de la UANL - Jorge Diaz de Leon; Abraham Stringel (Josue Aguilar 87'), Hugo Rodriguez, Alonso Zamora, Jose Rivas (Jonathan Espericueta 45'); Alberto Acosta (Taufic Guarch 61'), Manuel Viniegra, Jesus Duenas, Elias Hernandez, Jonathan Bornstein; Alan Pulido

Seattle Sounders FC - Michael Gspurning; DeAndre Yedlin, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Djimi Traore, Leonardo Gonzalez; Mauro Rosales (Mario Martinez 54'), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans (Andy Rose 27'), Steve Zakuani (Marc Burch 83'); Sammy Ochoa, Eddie Johnson

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