SEATTLE — As history has shown, there’s no such thing as a comfortable lead against a Liga MX team. And while the Seattle Sounders probably were hoping for a bit more of a cushion, they’re understandably in no mood to downplay the significance of their 1-0 win over C.D. Guadalajara that came in front a decidedly split record crowd at CenturyLink Field.
The Sounders were hardly dominant, especially in the first half, but they were clearly the better side in the second half despite Chivas putting out a lineup that would have been perfectly respectable against any Mexican opponent. Clint Dempsey scored the game’s only goal on a 78th minute strike from a Henry Wingo pass and easily could have had one or two more. The Sounders also had a pretty solid penalty shout when Handwalla Bwana was taken down in the box. Will Bruin also hit an open header off the post. In other words, the Sounders were at least deserving winners.
Frei’s big save: Chivas didn’t have a ton of chances but they did have a golden opportunity in the first half when Roman Torres misplayed a bouncing ball to allow Alan Pulido a 1-v-1 chance. Pulido’s touch was a little heavy, but credit to Stefan Frei for making the early decision to come out and challenge the shot. He ended up making the stop, preserving the shutout.
Pulido took a bit of a heavy touch but what an gutsy move by Frei to come out. pic.twitter.com/t8T5Ms3YIo— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) March 8, 2018
Dempsey’s class finish: In a game that saw the Sounders take 18 shots, it’s little surprise that Dempsey was the high-volume guy. His six shots were a game-high and four of those were on target. One of them, of course, found the back of the net. It was vintage stuff from him, as he made a late run into the box and Wingo put it right where he likes it. That he finished it smoothly was the least surprising thing on the night (aside from the referee swallowing his whistle on seemingly every potentially game-changing call).
This was good stuff from Wingo and Dempsey. McCrary with the hockey assist too. pic.twitter.com/IostTp8bkB— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) March 8, 2018
- For a third straight game, the Sounders showed themselves capable of generating plenty of chances. That it came against a mostly first-choice Chivas team should give us reason for confidence and their opponents won’t be anymore rested for the return leg. While the Sounders have the weekend off, Chivas will be playing a match, albeit against one of the two teams below them in the Liga MX table.
- How about the kids, though? Before making way for Wingo, Handwalla Bwana was nothing if not confident. Bwana admitted to literally shaking and telling Clint Dempsey “I’m scared” before kickoff, but you’d never have known it, especially with how he played in the second half. He had one particularly ill-advised backheel in his own end that could have been trouble, but otherwise his “trying shit” was for the offensive end. In the second half, he was especially good and by all rights should have won at least one penalty and maybe two. Wingo, of course, got the assist and was generally exactly what the Sounders needed: someone to provide a little energy against the tired legs of Chivas defenders.
- Jordan McCrary was everything anyone could have possibly asked. Kelvin Leerdam is in no danger of losing his job, but McCrary hung with some very talented attackers and even kept them honest by getting forward. He also had the pass that opened up the goal. It’s not hard to see why the Sounders coaches essentially chose him over Oniel Fisher.
- Gotta give some love to Gustav Svensson and Cristian Roldan, both of whom were absolute rocks in the midfield. Neither were sparkling in the attack, but nothing got through them. Their performance is probably best illustrated by Roldan’s eight tackles. Tough kid, indeed. This moment was particularly nice.
- It was said here numerous times that the Sounders needed a two-goal win to feel remotely confident heading to Guadalajara. I’m not as convinced of that right now. The shutout was huge and all the Sounders need to do is play even. That’s no easy task, of course, and something only a few MLS teams have ever managed to do.
- As much as I loved the atmosphere, I’d be lying if I said I weren’t a little disappointed at how many Sounders season-ticket holders apparently sold their seats. I get it. Weeknight game that wasn’t originally on the schedule, plenty of demand. It happens. But come on, this is a huge match against a historic team.
Sounders (4-2-3-1): Frei; Francis, Marshall, Torres, McCrary; Roldan, Svensson; Bwana (Wingo 73), Dempsey (Shipp 90), Lodeiro; Bruin (Neagle 80).
Chivas (4-4-2): Cota; Mayorga, Alanis, Salcido, Cisneros; Brizuela (Pizarro 56), Pineda, Perez (Macias 81), Lopez (Sandoval 67); Pulido, Godinez.
78’ - Dempsey (Wingo)