SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA – Before flying to Central America, Sounders FC didn’t hesitate to characterize its match at CD Saprissa as a do-or-die game.
If the Sounders were right about that, their 2-0 loss Tuesday means their hopes of advancing out of CONCACAF Champions League Group C are now pretty well dead.
Halfway through this six-game stage, the group seems to have established a clear pecking order: Monterrey has beaten everyone, Saprissa has beaten everyone but Monterrey, Marathon has beaten Seattle, and Seattle hasn’t beaten anyone.
That means that with three matches remaining, the Sounders have no chance of reaching the 10-point mark that usually means advancement to the knockout stage.
“We need to get something out of this game,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid had said in the days leading up to it. “We need to get a point, or we need to get three. ”
Veteran goalkeeper Kasey Keller even said a loss at Saprissa would turn the final three group rematches into virtual reserve games.
As it turned out, Keller himself was a reserve at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa, as Terry Boss got a rare start. And Boss managed to keep his team even for 53 minutes.
However, Seattle’s hopes were jolted in the 39th minute, when Sounders defender Leo Gonzalez – a Costa Rica native – got a red card.
The breakthrough came in the 54th minute, when David Guzman got clear space at the top of the penalty area to wind up and sizzle a 23-yarder left of the diving Boss.
The final nail came in the 72nd minute, when a Sounders’ corner kick morphed into a Saprissa counterattack. The stampede ended with Allan Aleman knocking a point-blank goal in from near the penalty spot, just ahead of the charging Boss.
In between, the Sounders had a clear chance to equalize when forward Fredy Montero was knocked down inside the penalty area.
Because Schmid does not like fouled players taking their own penalty kicks, midfielder Osvaldo Alonzo took it.
As he did, Saprissa goalkeeper Fausto Gonzalez hopped and waved on his line. Then he lunged to his right to block Alonzo’s shoulder-high shot.
The Sounders return to MLS play Saturday at Columbus.
More game notes and Sounders’ reaction at blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer.