Tuesday brought a pair of disappointing results for Sounders FC in CONCACAF Champions League.
Before taking the pitch, the Sounders knew Monterrey had defeated Comunicaciones in the other Group D game, which meant Seattle couldn’t assure its way through to the quarterfinals even with a win.
Then the Sounders didn’t win – or even draw. Instead, they lost to Herediano, 1-0, before a crowd of 10,163 at CenturyLink Field.
“Overall, I didn’t think it was one of our best games,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “Obviously, we’re dealing with injuries and things like that and a heavy schedule, so we had to make some lineup decisions based upon that. But at the end of the day, our quality tonight wasn’t good enough.”
Seattle began the night with a perfect record over its first three matches of the competition, while Herediano had lost its first three.
Now, with two games remaining for each club, Group D looks considerably more clustered: Seattle, 3-1; Monterrey and Comunicaciones, 2-2; Herediano, 1-3. The top two finishers advance to the knockout rounds.
With a Major League Soccer match against Vancouver looming Saturday, Schmid cobbled together a largely reserve lineup Tuesday, including a midfield of Roger Levesque, Servando Carrasco, Amadou Sanyang and Lamar Neagle playing behind forwards Nate Jaqua and Pat Noonan.
Herediano broke through in the 25th minute on a free kick, as Yosimar Arias sent a shot just over the Sounders’ wall and beat goalkeeper Kasey Keller to the near side from about 23 yards.
“It was a good free kick. Arias hit it well,” Schmid said. “I didn’t think our wall jumped, but he still hit the free kick well. I thought we had some chances (to equalize). We certainly had chances in the last 30 minutes of the game.”
As the visitors carried their lead into the second half, Schmid sent on a pair of his top players: forward Fredy Montero and midfielder Osvaldo Alonso.
“Alonso got us to get a little quicker to our marks in midfield, which is what I asked him to do,” Schmid said. “Montero was able to hold the ball a little for us up front, allow people to join in. It certainly helps our game.”
Schmid’s final substation came in the 74th minute, when forward Sammy Ochoa made his Seattle debut. And he almost became an instant hero on a header in the 89th minute.
“I didn’t see the goalie,” Ochoa said. “I thought it was in, and out of nowhere, his hand showed up.”
That was one of four saves by Herediano goalkeeper Daniel Cambronero. He also aggressively ran out to snag several Seattle crosses in front of the goal.
“He had a big game,” Schmid said. “He anticipated the crosses. He cheated on some of them. I think the quality of our crosses wasn’t as good as it needed to be. I think Jaqua had two good headers he needed to do better with – Ochoa’s opportunity as well. But a lot of times our crosses were straight, they were hung up in the air, and that’s not enough quality.”
Seattle’s next Champions League match is Tuesday at Comunicaciones. And with that comes another chance to clinch a spot in the quarterfinals.
“If we go down to Guatemala and get a result – a win or a tie – that will put us through,” Schmid said. “So now it’s about that. It was probably not that different based on the results tonight, because Monterrey won, so either way we would have to get a result down there. And obviously we want to win the Vancouver game because that wins us the Cascadia Cup, and that’s important for us as well.”
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer