Sounders FC scored three goals in a 22-minute span to roar past Tigres UANL and into the CONCACAF Champions League semifinal round.
The 3-1 victory on Tuesday before a crowd of 20,520 at CenturyLink Field gave Seattle a 3-2 aggregate-goal win in the series. The result makes the Sounders the first Major League Soccer team to knock a Mexican club out of the competition.
“It feels great,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “We wanted to win. We felt we could win. We felt we could step up the pressure and play much better than we did (in the first leg in Mexico). Very proud of what the guys accomplished. And to be the first is always a good thing.”
After falling two goals behind on aggregate, Seattle stormed back with three highlight-reel goals: defender DeAndre Yedlin from 28 yards, defender Djimi Traore from 30 yards, and forward Eddie Johnson threading the needle from a tight angle.
“I’m very happy for my defenders, for my guys,” goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said. “They do a great job, and it’s also good if they’re in the spotlight with the goal. I’m also happy for Eddie, that he scored for the first time this year.”
Seattle went into the match needing to overcome the 1-0 advantage Tigres had taken in the series opener last week in Monterrey.
The challenge grew in the 23rd minute, when Tigres forward Elias Hernandez countered behind the Sounders defense and won his one-on-one battle with Gspurning.
That put the visitors ahead 1-0 on the night, 2-0 on aggregate, and because they now had a road goal it meant Seattle would need at least three goals to advance.
That seemed quite a hurdle for a club that hadn’t scored in either
of its first two matches this season. But Seattle had one advantage: Tigres was playing one man down after midfielder Manuel Viniegra had been sent off just before halftime when given his second yellow card.
The Sounders’ scoreless streak reached 252 minutes before 19-year-old Yedlin snapped it by sending a 28-yard volley past Tigres goalkeeper Jorge Diaz de Leon in the 53rd minute.
“I was a bit hesitant at first because I didn’t see that many guys running out toward me, so I figured I could take a touch,” Yedlin said. “I saw a guy coming at me hard, so I figured the safest thing to do was probably just try to hit it.”
Seattle’s second goal came seven minutes later from even greater distance as newly acquired Traore launched a ball that skimmed under the crossbar and in.
“I tried, and it worked,” Traore said. “If you never try, then you are never going to score goals.”
That pulled the Sounders even on aggregate, but they still needed another to overcome Tigres’ advantage in the away-goal tie-breaker.
What proved to be the clinching goal came in the 75th minute when Johnson took a pass from Steve Zakuani, ran down the left side and fired at a tight angle into the far netting.
“I knew I already had a step on my defender, and I tried to touch it across, cut his angle off, and if he touched me in the box I would go down for a (penalty kick),” Johnson said.
The result sends Seattle into the semifinal round next month, where it will meet the winner of the Santos Laguna-Houston series, which will resolve tonight in Mexico.
“I learned a long time ago: I don’t care who we play,” Schmid said. “It’s not like I prefer Houston to win, or Santos Laguna. We’ve got a score to settle with Santos, if Santos is the representative; and if it’s Houston, then that’s the team we’ve got to get past and it means there’s an American team that gets into the final. So, either way is OK with me.”
Santos eliminated the Sounders in the CCL quarterfinal round last season.
Seattle returns to MLS play at 5 p.m. Saturday when the Portland Timbers visit CenturyLink.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 email@example.com/soccer