It was a night of two games.
The Cascade Shale took the pitch, and came out swinging. From the whistle, the Sounders went on the offensive, but throughout the first half, something seemed off. They won the duels, but rattled shots off the boards, something wasn’t right. Energy seemed almost like it was waning fast, and only twenty minutes had gone by. And then Tigres shook their fists at the gods of the Pacific Northwest, with a combination of foul play and lack of called fouls, to sneak a ball into the net.
To say the crowd was devastated would be a gross understatement. A score from the interlopers made the game suddenly almost hopeless. It meant the Sounders would need to post three goals unanswered in order to win the series. Three unanswered goals against an opponent that was showing that even a B squad was nothing at which one could sneer.
And then, finally some magic dust sprinkled on the Sounders. Tigres Manuel Viniegra posted two yellow card fouls, and was summarily ejected. Hope had been given new life. The Sounders could pull off three goals with only a little change in tactics.
The teams headed into the locker rooms, and severe ‘talkin to’ ensued.
When the pitch was manned again for a second half, it was with a noticeably recharged. It was eleven to ten, and the Sounders made a formation change, moving for the first time in club history to a 3-5-2. DeAndre Yedlin seemed to have been given position in right mid, leaving Djimi Traore, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, and Leo Gonzalez as the defending back line. The new combination was exactly the magic needed.
Less than ten minutes into the second half, the new kid on the block posted a beautiful rebound shot into the net from nearly forty yards out, bouncing the ball through the defenders and over the diving keeper, scoring his first goal in the season, and winning the adoration of fans all over the city.
Not seven minutes later, the Sounders tied up the series with a rocket shot from defender Djimi Traore when he took charge of a volley at thirty-five yards. The long driving shot rang the crossbar like a bell, and bounced down and into the goal, sending the crowd into seething cries of exaltation. The stage was set, all the game needed was me more Sounders goal, and Seattle would make history.
In the seventy-fifth minute, Steve Zakuani made a charge down the left side, and a beautiful pass to striker Eddie Johnson. Johnson juked, slipped around the Tigres defender, and slid a world class strike into the bottom of the net, sliding the shot almost completely along the back line just inside the keeper.
From there, it was down to holding the line, chewing up the clock, and keeping the Sounders home net free of Tigres goals for fifteen minutes (and four questionable minutes of stoppage time). The boys in Shale proved up to the task, and made it look easy.
And that fast, history was made, as the Seattle Sounders became the first team in the MLS to eliminate a Mexican opponent in the knockout rounds of the champions league, since 08-09 when the format of the games had changed.
It’s a night of celebration, happiness, and camaraderie for the boys on the pitch and the fans throughout the northwest. The game has been over for nearly an hour now, and the euphoria is still a visible, palpable, and heady presence. Voices will be in short supply tomorrow, as fans attempt to talk through vocal cords that have been strained to the utmost screaming and chanting, cheering and shouting in rapt adulation and fan boy ecstasy.
~Bleeding Rave Green