Alex Caskey (45th minute), Sammy Ochoa (60th) and Fredy Montero (69th) recorded goals — and assists — as the Sounders defeated Caledonia AIA 3-1 Thursday night in Couva, Trinidad, in CONCACAF Champions League play. The Sounders, who also defeated Caledonia 3-1 at CenturyLink Field Aug. 2, won the Group Four head-to-to head on aggregate goals 6-2.
The Sounders need one point in two matches against Marathon (Honduras) to advance to the knockout stage of Champions League in March, 2013. Seattle leads Group Four with six points in two matches. Caledonia was eliminated with one point through three games.
The match was played in a Couva facility almost entirely devoid of spectators, which seemed to lull the Sounders into complacency for most of the first half when they were content to retain possession without creating many scoring opportunities.
But in the 45th minute, Ochoa found Zach Scott, who rolled the ball across the box to Caskey, who re-directed the pass into a 1-0 Seattle lead. In the first 45 minutes, the Sounders out-shot Caledonia 9-8 and had a 4-1 advantage in shots on goal.
Caskey’s goal marked his first in Champions League play. He previously assisted on an Ochoa goal in the home leg against Caledonia.
Ochoa doubled Seattle’s lead to 2-0 in the 60th minute when, with an assist from Montero, he stuck a shot in the upper left corner of the net. The Sounders tried to play a possession game from there, but a foul by Scott on Jamal Gay gave Caledonia a penalty kick in the 66th minute.
Kareem Joseph had an easy conversion, rocketing a shot into the left side of the net as Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning guessed incorrectly and dove in the opposite direction.
Montero took the suspense out of the match in the 69th minute when he scored on a cross from Caskey. That marked Montero’s second Champions League goal, his fifth goal in five matches, and his eighth goal in seven games across all competitions.
Head coach Sigi Schmid substituted freely after Montero rammed in the goal over an opponent not in Seattle’s class. He replaced Montero with Leo Gonzales, gave Cordell Cato, a Trinidad native, some playing time (Cato’s rooting section seemed to be half of the attendance) and lifted Ochoa for Christian Tiffert.
Schmid made six changes to his lineup Thursday, notably giving Mario Martinez his first start with the franchise and using Ochoa in place of Eddie Johnson, Seattle’s co-leading scorer with Montero.
With the Dallas match — and the Supporters’ Shield race — looming Sunday, Schmid also elected not to use Mauro Rosales, the MLS assist leader, or Adam Johansson, both regular starters.
After the Sounders face FC Dallas Sunday in a match that starts at 4 p.m., PT, they will play their next home match Sept. 8 against Chivas USA, a team they crushed 6-2 a week ago.
After taking on the Portland Timbers in a Cascadia Cup contest Sept. 15, the Sounders return to Group Four play in the Champions League Sept. 19 when they travel to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, for a match against Marathon.
The home leg against Marathon is Oct. 24.