The epitaph was all but written: Here lie the Seattle Sounders' chances of winning the CONCACAF Champions League. That it would come in just the second game of the group stage seemed harsh, but after starting a lineup that would have looked far more at home in the USL, it was perhaps fitting.
But the Sounders weren't about to go quietly into the night. First, Aaron Kovar's 90th minute throw-in somehow found its way to Erik Friberg all alone at the far post. He tapped in the header, seemingly securing a very valuable point and giving the Sounders some life.
Of course, that wasn't enough. The Sounders threw numbers forward, continued to apply pressure and finally when it seemed like it was about to end, Dylan Remick drew a penalty in the 95th minute. A scuffle ensued, because of course it did. Gonzalo Pineda first stepped up to take the penalty. But he gave way to Brad Evans. More scuffling.
Finally, Evans stood over the ball. He did what he usually does. He pounded the ball into the back of the net. The sparse crowd exploded in a cheer so loud that the stadium literally shook. Another scuffle followed. In the end, the Sounders had an improbable 2-1 win over CD Olimpia on Wednesday. They are now top of the group with four points and suddenly have a reasonably clear path toward advancement.
It was a fitting end for a match that was crazy in the way that CONCACAF matches so often are. There was sloppy play, lots of diving, weird calls and plenty of passion.
Alberth Elis got Olimpia on the board very early, scoring a 5th minute goal. The Sounders seemed to lose Elis in the scramble following a free kick, and Elis easily finished his header past Troy Perkins.
Although the Sounders dominated the rest of the first half, they had nothing to show for it aside from some near misses. Aaron Kovar got two particularly juicy looks, first nearly squeezing a shot inside the near post from about 12 yards out only to see Noel Vallardes make a nice diving save to keep it out. Kovar nearly got that one back in the 31st minute, volleying a Lamar Neagle cross that beat Vallardes but struck the post.
Neagle also set up Thomás for a good look, but his 29th minute shot was saved as well.
Neagle had a good look of his own in the second half when Gonzalo Pineda found him with a beautiful ball over the top of the defense. Kovar nearly equalized, too, hitting the post on a free kick from about 25 yards out.
All those missed chances ended up only ratcheting up the tension at the end.
- Last Sunday's game was cathartic in many ways, but if you want the perfect book end to the Red Card Wedding, this was it. The Sounders fought until the very end, had a big call go their way and have a game they can rally around going forward. They needed this. We needed this.
- This was a very suspect starting lineup, but the Sounders mostly handled themselves well. Kovar had a strong performance, Thomas was solid and Zach Scott did a good job marshaling a cobbled-together backline.
- The announced crowd was more than 37,000, which is easily a Sounders record for CCL. There were, more realistically, about 25,000 here, but you can bet the other 12,000 will claim they were. This was the kind of game you want to say "I was there."