There was a point — somewhere around minute 30 — when I and the other 20,000 or so other Sounders fans in CenturyLink Field tonight were all thinking the same thing: "Not again".
It isn't easy being a Sounders fan. Yeah, it may seem whingey for a fan of a club that's made the playoffs every year they've been in the league and has three Open Cup trophies in the case to complain. But it seems like it's never come easy for Seattle. We've never had a consistent finisher other than Montero, who's now in Colombia. Our relationship with the referees is unhealthy enough that we had to coin the phrase 'Getting Salazar'd'. Our major players have a tendency to get injured at the wrong time. We certainly like to dig huge holes in two legged series to try to crawl out of.
And by minute 30 it was all on display. Eddie Johnson had scuffed two shots in the box that would have evened the series. Mauro Rosales was limping around the field after falling on his back. Brad Evans was sitting on the ground with an injured calf. And down the left sideline tore . . was that Acosta?. . to bowl over DeAndre Yedlin in nearly a mirror image of the play that happened 5 minutes previously in the exact same place that was called a foul on Yedlin. But no foul was called, the cross was on, Evans was still out of the play, and in the net it went. With the away goal tiebreaker We were down a 3-goal hole again. After Tigres' celebration, Evans went off and the Mexican team proceeded to happily ping the ball around the field for 20 or 30 touches until we heard giddy "Ole"s from Tigres fans echoing through the stadium. And we all looked up and the same time and thought "Not again".
But then something weird happened. The heavens opened (I think. I wasn't looking) and the Universe said "Okay Sounders, something nice can happen to you" and Manuel Viniegra was sent off for his second yellow. The scoresheet here says the second was for a foul, but I was pretty convinced that the second was for dissent along with the first, which would make that the softest red you can imagine.
Then the second half happened, and I can confidently say that was the funnest 45 minutes I've spent in that stadium. With the man advantage and Tigres being comfortable sitting back with the lead, the Sounders attackers came in waves. And 10 minutes into the half it paid off when Yedlin had a rebound pop out to him near the top of the box. You could understand him bringing that down to find a pass. But down 3 goals he did the right thing and volleyed it on goal. And what a volley that was. Low and hard and unsaveable. One of the best goals scored by a Sounder. 1-2. Welcome to Seattle, DeAndre.
And the waves kept coming, until another ball deflected outside the box to Djimi Traore, who did a thing he had no right doing, especially as a center back. He twisted around to get some kind of angle and launched a rocket that deflected off the bar and in. 2-2. Welcome to Seattle, Djimi.
At this point, obviously, everyone was delirious. Thirty minutes plus left and only needing one goal with a man advantage? It almost seemed inevitable. And it was fitting that after the newbies scored it was Steve Zakuani to put though Eddie Johnson, who screamed around the Tigres right back like he wasn't even there to fire it through de Leon's near post for the lead. 3-2. Welcome back, Eddie.
There were other chances. . Andy Rose had a wide open shot in the box that he chose to take a touch on and missed his opportunity (and I'm sure he'll never do that again). Yedlin singlehandedly took 3 years off Jonathan Bornstein's career when he toyed with him in the left corner for a full 20 seconds or so before getting a cross off. And there were chances the other way, once Tigres needed them. A close shot went just wide of Gspurning's goal with the Austrian screened and blind to the play.
But Seattle finished the game with a determination and a confidence we've rarely seen from this team, even in success. Against the top club in Mexico, they held the ball in the corner for the last 3 minutes of the game like they were playing a rec team. And then it was over and the drinking started in earnest.
Seattle is the first US club to beat a Mexican team in the knockouts in the CCL era, sure. But more importantly, we got a generous call. We came back from three goals down. We finished speculative shots. At least for one night, we got some breaks. And if we get a few more, who knows? The Club World Cup isn't out of reach.