Forty-five minutes into the second leg in the CONCACAF Champions League tournament in Seattle Tuesday night, the Sounders CCL run appeared done. Seattle trailed Tigres 1-0 in the game 1-0, 2-0 on aggregate, and hadn’t scored a goal in 225 minutes this season. But a foolish red card by Manuel Viniegra left Tigres a man down for the second half and cleared the way for a startling 3-1 Sounders win.
Advancing to the semifinals on a two-game aggregate 3-2, the Sounders will play the winner of Houston-Santos Laguna match Wednesday. After the first leg, Houston leads 1-0.
Tigres traveled just 16 players and started what could called a B-list lineup absent its stars, a move that some might consider offensive to the Sounders, given that the tourney was in the knock-out stage.
The club from Mexico took a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute on a goal from Elias Hernandez. Hernandez found the back of the net off a cross from Alberto Acosta.
Acosta roughed 19-year-old defender DeAndre Yedlin to the turf before finding Hernandez.
A confident Tigres team commanded possession for 10 more minutes before Seattle played the rest of the half primarily on Tigres’ side. The Sounders squandered three opportunities in a five-minute span before Viniegra was given an unsportsmanlike conduct yellow card (time wasting) for kicking away the ball needlessly, his second yellow that ejected him and gave Seattle a much-needed break for the second half.
The Sounders needed to outscore Tigres by three goals in the second half to advance on aggregate — a tall task considering the team had yet to score this season. But the man advantage proved to be the spark.
Yedlin scored his first professional goal in the 52nd minute after a corner kick was cleared to the top of the penalty box. Yedlin knocked down the cleared corner and smashed it inside the post from 30 yards.
Seven minutes later, another Sounders newcomer, Djimi Traore, scored a goal just as impressive as Yedlin’s. After another Tigres clearance, Traore hit a laser that ricocheted off the crossbar and into the back of the net from 35 yards.
After the shocking boomers from distance, Eddie Johnson, Seattle’s leading scorer last season, broke free in the 74th minute. He sprinted down the left side with touch pass from Steve Zakuani. Tigres backup goalie Jorge Diaz de Leon left a couple feet between himself and the right post. Despite the tough angle, it was all Johnson needed, giving Seattle a 3-1 match lead, 3-2 on aggregate, delighting a soggy Century Link crowd of 20,520.
Tigres didn’t threaten Seattle’s lead until the 92nd minute when Alan Pulido corralled a cleared corner kick. His tying shot missed just feet to the left.
The Sounders outshot Tigres 19-7 after being outshot 18-3 in Mexico last week.
With the win, the Sounders advance to the CCL semifinals for the first time and are the first MLS team to eliminate a Mexican club from the tournament. Seattle is 8-4-0 at CenturyLink Field in CCL play and improved to 3-5-0 against Mexican clubs.
The Sounders get back to MLS play Saturday, hosting Cascadia Cup rival Portland, which won the Cup last season. The first leg of the CCL semifinals will be played between April 2-4, the second leg between April 9-11.