Before the first leg of the Seattle Sounders’ CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series, coach Sigi Schmid announced three goals: keep a clean sheet, win, and score goals.
As it played out Tuesday, the Sounders managed only to score goals, opening the home-and-away series with a 2-2 draw with defending champion Club America before a crowd of 42,836 at CenturyLink Field.
As a practical matter, that gives the Sounders only one goal for the resolution match next week in Mexico City: Win.
“That’s it: We get a win, we move on,” captain Brad Evans said. “So, that’s got to be our focus. We also have to play a smarter, concise game when we head down there.”
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The Sounders didn’t do that often enough Tuesday, as they took two leads — both on goals by Clint Dempsey — and allowed Club America to come back both times.
Even with Schmid’s hopes of keeping a clean sheet, the match was offensive-minded from the start. Schmid later said it could have been 4-4 at half. Jordan Morris — in his Seattle debut — almost put the Sounders ahead with a 12th- minute header. But for all the chances and pace, the game remained scoreless until erupting in the final minutes of the half.
Dempsey put Seattle ahead in the 43rd minute, first by drawing a foul and then by sending a curling free kick into the top right corner from 26 yards.
However, the Sounders couldn’t nurse that lead to the break, as Club America’s Darwin Quintero timed a run just past the trapping Seattle defense and beat goalkeeper Stefan Frei from 8 yards.
“We’re up 1-0 and with two minutes to go (until halftime) then you’ve got to seal it, and we still had some players who wanted to go forward with two minutes to go in the half,” Schmid said. “We needed to come out at halftime 1-0.”
Dempsey pushed Seattle back ahead in the 52nd minute, this time on a header from about 6 yards.
Club America equalized again in the 69th minute, this time with Oribe Peralta finishing from close range behind the Sounders’ defense.
“They moved the ball side to side really well a couple of times … left, right, left, right,” Evans said. “You move around that much and it’s very difficult to keep your head on a swivel for that long.”
Seattle went with what seems a pure first-choice lineup: Frei; defenders Tyrone Mears, Evans, Chad Marshall, Joevin Jones; midfielders Erik Friberg, Osvaldo Alonso, Andreas Ivanschitz; forwards Morris, Dempsey, Nelson Valdez.
Nine of Club America’s starting 11 also appeared in their weekend domestic league draw with Cruz Azul.
The series will wrap up at 5 p.m. March 2. The Sounders advance with a win — or with a draw in which they score three or more goals. If they advance, they creep one round closer to their goal of becoming the first team from Major League Soccer to win the tournament.
“History is there,” Schmid said. “It’s there for you to look at, but it’s also there to be broken. If we just look at history and say, ‘Well, that’s the way it goes,’ then we might as well stay here and we don’t need to get on a plane. But we’re getting on a plane. We’re going down there to play, and a win puts us through.”
Then the Sounders will turn their attention to the start of their eighth MLS season, March 6, when Sporting Kansas City visits.
“Obviously there’s things we want to get better at as we move forward,” Schmid said. “And we will. But for this stage of our season, and where (Club America is) in their season and the quality team they are, I thought we showed well.”