Seattle Sounders FC’s trip to El Salvador to face Santa Tecla in the CONCACAF Champions League started well after Nicolas Lodeiro chipped the keeper from about 40 yards out to take an early lead after 15 minutes.But things fell apart in the second half, with Seattle falling 2-1 to the home side. While unfortunate to concede a questionable penalty kick that would give Santa Tecla the lead, Seattle was the inferior side for the second half of the match and was fortunate to get an away goal and only concede two.
For much of the match Seattle looked a step slower than Santa Tecla, and while part of that can be attributed to this being the first competitive match for the Sounders where as Santa Tecla is in the middle of their season, Santa Tecla seemed to want the win more. Tecla were winning 50-50 balls and pressuring the ball when Sounders had possession while Seattle was giving the Salvadorian side space to pass and move, bypassing the midfield with ease.
Full Time: Seattle Sounders FC 1, Santa Tecla 2
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) February 23, 2018
Tony Alfaro had a particularly difficult night for Seattle as he was caught out of position multiple times throughout the match. The centre-back found himself too far up the field on numerous occasions as he tried to win back possession, only to be unable to get to the ball in time to stop Santa Tecla. This created problems for Seattle’s back four, especially Waylon Francis on the left wing as he struggled to find opportunities to join the attack due to having to cover the space left open by Alfaro.
Offensively Seattle were reliant on counter-attacks and the speed of Jordan Morris to create chances. Morris was able to stretch the defence at times but rarely had a teammate to support him as late in the match conditioning became an issue. Morris would eventually have to come off after going down with an apparent knee injury. Morris was unable to put weight on his leg as he was half carried off the field by Sounders training staff and his health is easily the most concerning takeaway from the match.
Ultimately this match was always going to be a test of the Sounders depth as they were without Clint Dempsey, Osvaldo Alonso, Kelvin Leerdam, Roman Torres, and Victor Rodriguez who all stayed home in Seattle. Brian Schmetzer fielded a lineup based on those closest to being 90 minutes fit and with the injury to Morris and limited depth at forward, it’s likely that their depth will be tested again next week in the second leg on March 1st. Their regular season opener will take place just days later against expansion side LAFC on March 4th.
While they were not the better side for much of the match, they were able to limit Santa Tecla’s scoring opportunities. Were it not for an unfortunate penalty call Seattle’s young, mismatched roster would have been able to return home with an all important away goal and a tied series. While it was not a performance Seattle will hang their hat on by any stretch of the imagination, it’s a result that the Sounders can be content with knowing they will be playing the second leg at home where they have outscored opponents 15 to zero in their last five matches.