Fredy Montero did not have a very good game. (Photo by Chris Coulter/SoundersPhotos.com)
Some losses shake you to the core. The Seattle Sounders falling 6-1 to Santos Laguna in the deciding match of their CONCACAF Champions league quarterfinal on Wednesday is one of those.
There really is no sugar-coating this one. The Sounders gave up two early goals, managed to equalize on aggregate late in the first half, but were blown out of the water in the second half. Herculez Gomez grabbed back the lead in the 49th minute and, with the Sounders forced to press for the equalizer, they were repeatedly caught on the counter-attack. Santos Laguna had far too many good chances and proved far too deadly to not punish the Sounders.
From a larger perspective, a game like this really puts into perspective the gulf between Mexican and MLS teams. Sure, MLS teams are capable of competing, as the Sounders and numerous other MLS teams have proven in the past couple years. But when push comes to shove and something is really on the line, the Mexican teams keep finding a way to get it done.
Usually, it's not this resounding, though.
The Sounders simply had no answers in this one. They were largely outplayed in the midfield, their defense was badly exposed and they were unable to convert most of the numerous chances they were given or created. After really outplaying Santos Laguna in the first leg, the Sounders were clearly out-classed this time.
The one real highlight was another perfectly placed Fredy Montero cross, this one finding the head of Alvaro Fernandez in the 37th minute. That momentarily breathed some life into the Sounders, who went into halftime with a bit of momentum.
Just to tie a bow on the perfectly disastrous evening, Eddie Johnson was forced to leave after less than 20 minutes of playing when he injured his hip-flexor. There was no word on just how serious of an injury it was.
The good news, if you choose to look at it that way, is that the Sounders have their MLS opener on Saturday. They'll be playing a Toronto FC team that is coming off an upset of the LA Galaxy in the other CCL quarterfinal, earning them a date with Santos Laguna. A win in that one would go a long way toward calming any new fears about the upcoming season. The sting of this loss, though, will linger.