CCL Match Preview: Seattle Sounders vs. Santos Laguna
SEATTLE SOUNDERS vs SANTOS LAGUNA
CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
April 2, 2013 (CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, Leg 1)
10 pm ET/7 pm PT (Fox Soccer, live chat on MLSsoccer.com)
Referee: Hector Rodriguez (HON); AR: Oscar Velasquez, Christian Ramirez; Fourth official: Raul Castro
For the first time in club history, Seattle Sounders FC will compete in the CONCACAF Champions League Semifinals, hosting Mex ico’s Santos Laguna in the first leg on Tuesday night. Kickoff is set for 10 pm ET on the Xbox Pitch at CenturyLink Field. Tuesday’s match is the first of a two-game, aggregate goal series. The second leg will be played on April 9 at Estadio Corona in Torreon, Mexico.
The LA Galaxy take on two-time defending champion Monterrey in the other semifinal, beginning Wednesday in Los Angeles and concluding April 10 in Monterrey, Mexico. The semifinal winners will advance to the two-leg final, to be played on April 24 and May 1. The winner of the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League will earn a berth to the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco.
Seattle became the first MLS team to eliminate a Mexican side from the modern-era Champions League tournament when they ousted Tigres UANL in the quarterfinal.
Seattle’s opponent on Tuesday is a familiar one, having faced Santos in the quarterfinal round of last year’s tournament. Sounders FC won the first leg at home, 2-1, but ultimately fell, 7-3 on aggregate. Santos ousted the Houston Dynamo from the quarterfinals of this year’s tournament, 3-1 on aggregate.
How they got here
Sounders FC and Santos Laguna took similar paths to the semifinals. As two of three teams to win all four group-stage matches, both Seattle and Santos lost the first leg of the quarterfinals on the road before winning the series at home.
Seattle started off the group stage with back-to-back 3-1 wins over Caledonia of Trinidad followed by two victories over Honduras' Marathón, winning 3-2 away and 3-1 at home. The team finished with a plus-seven goal differential and four of the five goals conceded came from the penalty spot. Sounders FC entered the knockout round as the No. 3 overall seed where they ousted Tigres, 3-2 on aggregate.
Santos won all four of their group stage games over Toronto FC and Salvadorian side CD Águila by a combined score of 13-1. The No. 2 overall seed, Santos faced Houston in the quarterfinals, falling 1-0 on the road and winning 3-0 at home to advance to the semifinals for the second straight year.
Santos Laguna quick facts
Santos Laguna are competing in their fourth CONCACAF Champions League, and third straight after losing to Monterrey in last year's final. Santos twice previously reached the semifinals, losing to Mexican squads Atlante in 2008 and Cruz Azul in 2010.
The club competes in the 30,000-seat Estadio Corona, which was completed in 2009 at the cost of $100 million. The first match was a friendly between Santos Laguna and famed Brazilian club Santos FC on November 11, 2009.
The sold-out crowd included Mexican president Felipe Calderón and Brazilian World Cup hero Pelé. Santos captured the 2012 Clausura title in dramatic fashion, beating Tigres in the semifinals on a pair of late goals and then defeating Monterrey in the finals 3-2 on aggregate.
Santos Laguna update
Santos Laguna sit fourth in the Liga MX standings at 6-2-4 (22 points) after conceding a late 1-1 draw on Saturday against Querétaro. Oribe Peralta scored a first-half penalty, but a stoppage-time own-goal by Felipe Baloy leveled the match.
Prior to Saturday’s draw, Santos won their previous four league matches to pull within four points of league-leading Atlas, and also ousted the Houston Dynamo from Champions League play, avenging a 1-0 loss in the first leg with a 3-0 home win.
The club is captained by famed goalkeeper Oswaldo Sánchez, who has 99 caps for El Tri. The attack features US international Herculez Gomez, whose career has enjoyed a resurgence in the Liga MX. He is the first player to win both an MLS Cup and a Primera División title.
Mexican forward Oribe Peralta was the co-leading scorer in last year's Champions League with seven goals and scored 43 goals in all competitions, all from the run of play. The team features 11 present or former international players, including seven Mexican internationals.
The Herculez connection
Santos forward Herculez Gomez played for the LA Galaxy in 2003 under Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid. Gomez was loaned to the USL Sounders in 2003, making 17 appearances with one goal before joining the Colorado Rapids (2007-08) and Kansas City Wizards (2008-09). Overall, he scored 23 goals with 13 assists in 124 appearances in six seasons of MLS play.
Gomez is a teammate of Seattle’s Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans on the US national team, earning 20 caps with five goals. He scored three goals in last year’s two-game series against Sounders FC.
Hahnemann gets the start in goal for Seattle
Goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann will make his second career start for Sounders FC on Tuesday in place of the suspended Michael Gspurning. Hahnemann, who began his professional career with the A-League Sounders in 1994, signed with the club on September 14, 2012, and made his first start on October 24 – a 3-1 win over CD Marathón in the final match of the CONCACAF Champions League group stage. He played 242 shutout minutes in the 2013 preseason, and made seven saves with one goal allowed in the MLS Reserve League match against Portland on March 17.
Yedlin continues hot start
DeAndre Yedlin continued the strong start to his professional career on Saturday night, becoming the youngest player in club history to record an assist (19 years, 264 days). The first Homegrown Player has already become the youngest player to start, play a complete game and score a goal for Sounders FC. Yedlin is one of just four players (Michael Gspurning, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Steve Zakuani) to start every league match this season.
It was more than his assist that made Yedlin’s performance at Salt Lake impressive. The 19-year-old Seattle native made a team-high six tackles and two blocked shots. His 67 touches were only bested by Osvaldo Alonso (69) and he completed 72-percent of his 36 passes – a game-high 16 were intended for Alonso.