When Joe Roth announced the Seattle Sounders Football Club he said that he wanted to compete on the international stage. In just two short years they showed up on that stage, and were crushed. Now, in just their third year the advance to the CONCACAF Champions League Championship Round after a 2-2 draw against CSD Comunicaciones of Guatemala. In a game that was full of rapid transitions it was the tenacity of Osvaldo Alonso around the offensive third that grabbed the point. Scoring two goals (44th, 89th) off the rebound he became the fourth Sounder to record two for this CCL season.
It was a shaky game, one in which the result was in doubt for too long. Not only did a Kasey Keller misclearance in heavy traffic wind up in the net when Comunicaciones scored their second (64th), the Cremas were able to take advantage of wide centerbacks and poor attempts at the offside trap to get their first (7th). It seemed that this method would work for another at various points. Only a poor call be the referee kept the Guatemalan side from an earned penalty when Jhon Kennedy Hurtado pulled a man down.
But, calls go against teams. The Rave Green have been victim to that. Ideally that works its way out in the end. While there is no direct correspondence in this match. Seattle will take it. In Round 6 at CenturyLink Field on October 18th Seattle will face Monterrey for first in the group. The Sounders will have to play better if they want to take that first place spot, but a draw would be enough.
Seattle's defense was too open, spread too wide. As Alonso was so often in the attack, along with one of the fullbacks, it meant that there were only 3 deep covering the defensive third. They tried to cope playing the trap. It worked less often than designed and Comunicaciones players can only blame themselves for the lack of scoring. Either Erik Friberg needs to drop deeper or neither fulback can go forward when Alonso is in the attack. High pressure can also force bad long passes to compensate for the lack of numbers defensively.
Lamar Neagle will probably admit that he didn't have his best game. He forced a few shots and attempted rapid interplays too often wound up as turnovers. Friberg was patient, possessive and won a few balls more than expected. In some ways he was a better version of Sturgis or Vagenas playing a narrow box-to-box role that settled things down and reset the attack.
Though none of the forwards scored, they got their looks. Fredy Montero would pop-up throughout the pitch and initiate attacks. He would use triangles with Alonso or Alvaro Fernandez. He'd find slots to sting the ball into Mike Fucito. He attacked the goal and one of the saves of his shots became the tying goal. Fucito too had opportunities, most notably a one-on-one with the keeper sprung by his own speed that he mishit becoming an easy save. Substituting on and changing up the offense was Sammy Ochoa. As the Sounders were lofty cross happy on the night it was a solid move, but like too many tall men in the target role Ochoa's headers never threatened.
Coach Sigi Schmid pulled out Friberg and put in Servando Carrasco. That improvement in defensive posture helped the offense, as it meant that they had another man back on the counter. Fullbacks could more thoroughly commit and Alonso could continue his strong attacking game. Later Nate Jaqua would come on for Neagle. It wasted a bit of time, improved the posture of the team in dead ball situations and put Jaqua in a midfield role where he tends to look more comfortable.
The path to the result may not have been pretty. But Honey Badger Don't Care.
The Seattle Sounders are still alive in the regional championship advancing to the knockout round with a shot at winning their group.