Clint Dempsey's gorgeous curling free kick and powerful back-post header weren't enough to take a lead to Mexico and the confines of Azteca, but the two goals keep the Sounders in the series with a fighting chance. Coach Sigi Schmid and the players seemed to agree the result was acceptable considering the circumstances, and that the squad put on an admirable performance.
This was also the first match played on a brand new artificial surface. Because there can never be enough turf questions, there were turf questions.
Seattle Sounders FC 2 - Club America 2
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Venue: Xbox Pitch at CenturyLink Field
Referee: Oscar Reyna
Assistants: Ronaldo De La Cruz, Rene Ocha
Fourth Official: Jonathan Polanco
Weather: 52 degrees and clear
SEA - Clint Dempsey 44'
CA - Carlos Quintero (Rubens Sambueza) 45'
SEA - Clint Dempsey (Andreas Ivanschitz) 52'
CA - Oribe Peralta (Rubens Sambueza) 70'
CA - Rubens Sambueza (caution) 58'
SEA - Osvaldo Alonso (caution) 62'
SEA - Andreas Ivanschitz (caution) 90'+1'
CA - Pablo Aguilar (caution) 90'+2'
LINEUPS & STATS
Seattle Sounders FC - Stefan Frei; Tyrone Mears, Brad Evans - captain, Chad Marshall, Joevin Jones; Erik Friberg (Cristian Roldan 74'), Osvaldo Alonso, Andreas Ivanschitz; Jordan Morris (Darwin Jones 85'), Nelson Valdez (Aaron Kovar 74'), Clint Dempsey
Substitutes not used: Tyler Miller, Nathan Sturgis, Zach Scott, Oniel Fisher
Total shots: 11 (Dempsey, 3)
Shots on goal: 3 (Dempsey, 2)
Fouls: 12 (Valdez, 3)
Offside: 1 (Valdez, 1)
Corner-kicks: 5 (Ivanschitz, 5)
Saves: 4 (Frei, 4)
Club America - Hugo Gonzalez; Paolo Goltz, Miguel Samudio, Pablo Aguilar, Paul Aguilar; Osvaldo Martinez, Rubens Sambueza - captain, Brian Lozano (Andres Andrade 61'); Oribe Peralta, Darwin Quintero (Osmar Mares 87')
Substitutes not used: Luis Pineda, Erik Pimentel, Ventura Alvarado, Francisco Rivera, Jesus Moreno
Total shots: 12 (Quintero, 3)
Shots on goal: 6 (Quintero/Peralta, 2)
Fouls: 26 (Aguilar, 7)
Offside: 4 (Quintero/Peralta, 2)
Corner-kicks: 2 (Martinez/Sambueza, 2)
Saves: 1 (Gonzalez, 1)
SOUNDERS FC HEAD COACH SIGI SCHMID
"Obviously there are things we want to get better at moving forward, and we will. For this stage of our season, and for where they are in their season, and the quality of team they are, I thought we showed well. I thought we played well - we had two goals off set pieces, we could have had a few more off the run of play. The score easily could have been 4-4 at halftime because they had some chances as well, and they stretched us for sure. In the second half we solved that part of the problem, and I was very proud with what our guys did."
On Club America's first goal:
"We didn't get pressure on the ball and our back line stayed high, so that's something we talked about at halftime. The nature of the game takes on a different beast. A lot of guys were in their first Champions League games - with Jordan Morris, no matter how many national team games you play, it's a little different. And Joevin Jones, all those guys were trying to get their feet wet. We obviously wanted to have a clean sheet and we're up 1-0 with two minutes to go [in the half]. And we still had players who wanted to go forward with two minutes to go in the half. We needed to come out at halftime 1-0."
On Clint Dempsey's performance:
"I think Clint played very well. Obviously the two goals speak for themselves, but I think he got fouled seven or eight times. The only time he got a yellow card for that was at the end of the game - he was obviously a target, a guy that they were going after. There's got to be more protection, as well as awareness, from the officials. He played well. He's coming off the left for us - we were trying to give him some spaces there in the first half - and we needed [Andreas] Ivanschitz to push a little wider left to allow Clint to stay up higher. In the second half, he was able to stay higher, so more of his touches came in the attacking end of the field. Those are tweaks in the system that we are working on and getting better with."
On the playing surface:
"I think they answered the turf question yesterday - they feel much better about it. It's a much truer surface to play on. It plays much more like a regular field, so that makes a big difference. You get used to striking it because the blades are definitely longer than the old one and there's more fill. Again, I can't say enough about the effort that they put in. It's our first real game of the year and they are playing their eighth real game of the year... I thought our guys did really well."
On the way the team is led by the players:
"Everybody leads in their own way. We are not a big team with a bunch of rah-rah talkers, that's not we are all about, but guys are like, ‘OK, I'm going to get on with it. I am going to take care of business.'"
On the record-setting crowd:
"Fantastic. It was amazing. I don't stay out for all of the warmups, but when I was out there and I looked around, and [I thought], ‘I don't know if we are going to get there tonight.' And then by the time we walked out there for the kickoff and the game, I was absolutely amazed at all the people that were there. As I said yesterday, our advantage at home is not the turf - our advantage at home is the fans. The fans are the ones that give us the advantage at home."
On playing at Club America:
"History is there to be broken. If we looked at history and said, ‘Well that's the way it goes,' then we wouldn't need to get on the plane. We are getting on the plane, we are going there to play and a win gets us through. It doesn't matter either team scores - a win takes us through."
On Jordan Morris' performance:
"I thought he did well. I thought there were idiosyncracies that he's got to work out - it's a little bit of a different position for him as well. I don't think we got enough of an opportunity to see his pace and ride tackles and put people off his shoulder, but we saw a little bit of it at the end. His game will get better."
SOUNDERS FC DEFENDER BRAD EVANS
On the match:
"I'm happy with the performance. It is what it is. Two-two. Not an ideal situation but for our first ninety minutes since the last game of last year, I was happy with the way we pressured, I was happy with some of the fluidity up front. Our defending can get better as a group. In the back we can always get better. Listen, their two forwards up top made it very difficult. They are a really really good team. That was a very good test and a good wake up call for us heading into the season."
On Club America's first goal:
"I think the first goal we score and then the ball gets turned over to Joevin and he pushes high so Chad [Marshall] and I have to slide over to support and we get caught high. If he goes high we have to stay connected at some point. The ball gets turned over and then it's a foot race with [Carlos] Quintero...I tried to cut down the angle as best as I could and take away the far post. Unfortunately it comes off and Stefan [Frei] inside of his leg and it finds the back of the net. Unfortunate time to give up a goal. Little situations we can be smarter about going into the next game down there."
On preparing for the return leg in Mexico City:
"Yes we need to get a win and move on. We also have to play a smart, concise game when we head down there. It can't be playing like chickens with our heads cut off thinking we have to get a goal in the first five minutes, as it can come in the 95th. That will be fine. That means we need to be good defensively and keeping good possession. That will be difficult but that needs to be in the back of our minds. They have some fresh legs with the red cards. So we expect Peralta and Quintera to start up front again since they won't play this weekend. For them we hope it's a difficult game for them this weekend. They have to play us at home. That will be a difficult place to play at Azteca and we need to focus on us and what we can do."
SOUNDERS FC GOALKEEPER STEFAN FREI
On the result:
"I'm a little bit disappointed especially with us going in the lead twice but the performance was good I thought and considering it was our first game against a very tough opponent with some good weapons. It was a good performance and we put in a good shift. Obviously we need to go down there and come out and get the ‘W.' I'm happy but at the sam time disappointed."
On the play of the back line:
"Once the first half was over we made a little bit of adjustment and tried to make sure that we would take care of the space behind us a little bit better which we did. That forced them to go out wide and kinda keep it in front of us and that was good. Again it is getting used to the environment here and in preseason you can talk to each other and you can organize but it doesn't happen in front of 40,000 people. It is a good experience for all of us again to get out there and I think we worked especially well today and we worked hard and it is something we can build upon."
On the play of Joevin Jones:
"He played well. He is a very, very good player and a great addition for us. He knows when to go forward and he has good pace. He is also a good defender. He can shuttle players out wide and if they take it out wide he still has the pace to catch up and then close it down. I am really happy he is on the squad. Like I said it is going to take us a little bit of time to gel for all of us again and get into the rhythm of things but I'm happy for all of the guys in front of me."
SOUNDERS FC FORWARD JORDAN MORRIS
On tonight's match:
"It was our first competitive game of the season and I thought it was good. Now we got to go down there and get a win. It was fun to get out there for the first time in front of the fans."
On playing in front of the fans at CenturyLink Field for the first time:
"It was great, like always. It was awesome. It is going to be fun to play in front of these fans."
On his play leading up to the second goal:
"I think that I was going down the line and the ball got blocked out for a corner. Ivanschitz put in a great goal and Clint had a great header. Great free kick. Great header. Clint had a very very good game."
On the new surface:
"It was nice. I played on the old turf a few times. This is a much better turf. It just plays nicer."
CLUB AMERICA HEAD COACH IGNACIO AMBRIZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR)
On the game:
"As we were talking before, we had to adapt to the pitch and to play with a team that manages the ball well."
On if this game was physically taxing to play now especially with an important game on Saturday:
"You're right, that's exactly the case, but our team is prepared. The game was very much back and forth - with us attacking and them attacking as well. I do lose a couple of players ... but we have options to play against Tigres."
On if this result of 2-2 is an advantage in going back home:
"Not really. There's still another 90 minutes to play against a good team that manages the ball well. We do want to pass into the next round and we'll have to play a perfect match next time."
On if this Sounders team was what he expected or did they surprise him:
"No, not really. No surprises. We knew the team wasn't really in competition yet, but we watched their preparation games and we knew it was a team that could play on the counterattack. We knew it was a team that could be dangerous on set pieces and that can manage and distribute the ball really well. They have strong players in the middle like [Osvaldo] Alonso and [Erik Friberg]. We also knew about [Clint] Dempsey and [Nelson] Valdez always being around the goal. So no surprises - we knew what to expect."
On why this was such a wide open game and if he expected that:
"Yes, they had to play the ball, circulate the ball, but we knew that we needed to play with pressure, put pressure on the ball and force the keeper to punt at times. We knew that we were going to force an open game. That's the way that we like to play - playing with possession, but also forcing this back and forth."
On how it was playing on this surface:
"With regard to the pitch, we definitely needed to adapt. The league here plays the majority with artificial surfaces and in our league it's all natural. We had to adapt to the ball pace. The ball sometimes runs, sometimes slows down. I thought we did a good job. Other than that, the league is bringing very good players and elevating the over all quality of play. That's good for the investors of this league."
CLUB AMERICA DEFENDER PAOLO GOLTZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR)
On if the draw felt like a win:
"We came to get the win. Once the match started, our goal was to win. As the game went on, we came back twice from a disadvantage, so perhaps the draw was deserved."
On how to handle the return match in Mexico:
"I think we need to have a lot patience, and be calm; we know that we are local, in front of our fans, and the away goals also help. I think we realized that we can be superior if we play a good match."