In the midst of chewing out his team for a lackluster first-half effort, Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid made certain his players knew to take chances on shots in the final 45 minutes trying for the needed three goals to advance.
”You can’t be brilliant if you don’t try it,” Schmid said.
DeAndre Yedlin, Djimi Traore and Eddie Johnson were clearly listening, with three stunning goals that pushed Seattle into the semifinal round of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Johnson scored from a shallow angle along the end line in the 75th minute to cap Seattle’s remarkable second-half comeback to beat Mexican power Tigres3-2 on aggregate and advance to the semifinals for the first time in franchise history.
Seattle won the second-leg of the quarterfinal series 3-1 and became the first MLS club to oust a Mexican side in a home-and-home series since the format for the tournament was altered five years ago. Seattle will face either Houston or Santos Laguna in the semifinals.
”That’s the point, a historic night. Houston can beat Santos tomorrow, but we are the first, and that’s a good thing,” Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said.
They did it against a Tigres side that traveled with just 16 players and left many of its starters in Mexico. Tigres played the entire second half with just 10-men after Manuel Viniegra was given a second yellow card in the 45th minute.
Elias Hernandez scored a crucial away goal in the 23rd minute on a defensive breakdown by Seattle that gave Tigres a 2-0 lead in the aggregate. But Seattle took full use of having the man advantage and put pressure on the Tigres goal the entire second half.
”The red card helped us go into a more offensive set … and obviously you can’t say nothing but outstanding things about all three goals,” Schmid said.
The most impressive of the three goals belonged to Traore, whose strike in the 60th minute gave Seattle a 2-1 lead in the match. Traore’s shot from 30 yards out on a line skimmed the underside of the crossbar out of the reach of Tigres’ goalkeeper Jorge de Leon.
”If you don’t try, you can’t score that kind of goal, so that’s what I did,” Traore said.
While Traore’s was most impressive, Yedlin’s was the most important. Seattle had gone 233 minutes over three matches without scoring until Yedlin took a chance and volleyed in a shot from 30 yards out in the 53rd minute to get Seattle on the board.
”When you score two goals like that, the way Yedlin scored and Traore scored, you feed off that energy and we had the momentum,” Johnson said.
Following Traore’s goal, Steve Zakuani and Sammy Ochoa both missed chances in the penalty box. Johnson finally gave Seattle the third goal it needed. He took a pass down the wing from Zakuani and cut hard toward the goal from a difficult angle. Instead of crossing to the middle of the box, Johnson slid his shot past Diaz de Leon on the near post.
”In the first half I got in the same position and I tried to shoot it across to the back post,” Johnson said. ”I looked at the replay and saw he leans and cheats a little bit. I was able to sneak it in near post.”
Tigres had a chance to pull out a late victory, but Alan Pulido’s shot off a corner kick in stoppage time went just wide of the net. Pulido was one of just three Tigres players to appear in the first leg in Mexico and make the trip to Seattle. Tigres, the current leader of Mexico’s top division, had a league match last weekend, while Seattle had a bye in MLS play.
Tigres coach Ricardo Ferretti gave credit to Seattle for the win, but was critical of referee Elmer Bonilla.
”I don’t want to take away anything from Seattle’s victory. They didn’t need this type of help,” Ferretti said through an interpreter. ”But playing against 12 is a little bit harder.”