With a starting lineup that was clearly chosen to send a message Sigi Schmid's Seattle Sounders played a better game of soccer than their recent past. It was also quite different. The aggressive 4-1-4-1 put pressure higher than Seattle typically deploys. This created a few transitions further up field and led to some interesting attacks, but the Santos Laguna counter bypassing that midfield either over the top or with one touch 20 yard passes would create too many counters. A 54th minute counter that Marcus Hahnemann saved resulted in a rebound falling to Herculez Gomez who did what Herc does and scored.
The mood throughout the fanbase after seeing the lineup was of doom and gloom, but the rotationals put forward effort both defensively and in the attack that Sigi wanted to see. It was an improvement, but not enough. Against MLS sides it is a strategy that works, but leaves questions as to how does Seattle use their supposedly impressive forwards?
Both Martins and Johnson were out with injury. Estrada has an eye issue that could prevent play for weeks. The Sounders will head to leg two healthier but needing to score at least one goal. Scoring two would grant them the tie-breaker.
In all it was a match where the talent advantage made the difference, but both tactics and individual effort made up for that gap. Santos did not dominate. The only significant edge the Mexican side had was in shots on goal. All other measures that indicate expected wins were relatively even. Possession was in Seattle's favor.
Shalrie Joseph started his first match for his third MLS club. His role was more forward than Alonso with Alex Caskey nearby as an outlet and Evans out wider. Mario Martinez would roam freely flopping from side to side. It was an intriguing band that interchanged often, but stayed with a backbone that was defensively sound.
The switching did get men free, particularly on runs in the first half, but maintaining high pressure and the interchanging band would exhaust players. Joseph and Evans looked worn out when subbed off for Rose and Rosales.
Seattle would get a couple more attacks, usually through Sammy Ochoa. Ochoa's most remembered attempt will be the one that went wide for a throw-in, but his non-shooting play was solid. This was not a loss to lay at an individual's feet, unless at the coach's despite his system nearly working. Instead it was a demonstration that in the end quality is usually the determining factor.
Santos Laguna had more of it, but the Sounders looked different, better and still lost.
The two sides face off again on Tuesday the 9th in leg two. Away goals are the first tie breaker. If the aggregate score is tied 1-1 after 90 next week it will go to extra time.