After a disappointing 2-1 loss in El Salvador to Santa Tecla in the opening round of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, Seattle Sounders FC returned home to CenturyLink Field and dominated the second half to win 4-0 and advance 5-2 on aggregate.
Santa Tecla did well in the first half to negate chances for Seattle in the final third as they bunkered in deep in their half. Seattle was noticeably frustrated by their inability to get a goal in the first half and brought on Magnus Wolff Eikram to start the second in response.
Coach Brian Schmetzer replaced Tony Alfaro with Gustav Svensson and switched to a 4-4-2 diamond to bring a more attacking look at Santa Tecla. The move paid off as Sounders scored just two minutes into the second half. Seattle was able to put much more pressure on their opponents and created space for Nicolas Lodeiro in the box to find Will Bruin in front of goal to open the scoring.
Eikram’s ability to find open space and make creative passes opened up the attack for Seattle and really stretched the Santa Tecla defense. Eikram was able to get balls wide down the wings to teammates to allow Seattle to put dangerous crosses into the box and open up the match. Then his already strong understanding with Clint Dempsey led to a beautiful give-and-go as Eikram opened his scoring account with Seattle to make the match 4-0.
“Its a couple of pounds off my shoulders,” said Eikram when asked about scoring his first goal for Seattle. “I’m ready to go again on Sunday.”
It was also a great night for Lodeiro who scored the second goal and assisted on the first and third. Lodeiro thrived in the second half with Eikram in the match and Dempsey and Bruin as forwards, finding open space created by the other attackers. His corners were consistently into dangerous areas and created opportunities for Seattle to score throughout the match. Chad Marshall managed to finish his second chance from a corner in the 81st minute with a powerful header to make the match 3-0, rewarding Lodeiro for his consistent service.
Schmetzer gave a lot of credit to his players after the match for their performance, noting that they were frustrated in the first half but stayed mentally tough in the second. “I think you had a resolute group that was in that locker room that was pissed off and so they wanted to get that goal to open up the game,” said Schmetzer post-match.
It’s also worth noting as well how dominant Seattle has been at CenturyLink under Schmetzer. Sounders have only lost once – to Toronto FC last year – in his tenure while outscoring opponents 19-0 in their last six home games. While Schmetzer dismissed the previous five games from last season, he noted that “it’s important that the attacking players get in that rhythm and that flow so it was good for Dempsey to be involved although he didn’t score, it was good for Lodeiro, [and] Bruin. Goal scorers are streaky like that so [the 4-0 win] was a great way to start the homestand of 2018 and we hope that continues.”
Seattle will face Chivas Guadalajara in the second round of CCL play, hosting the first leg on Wednesday March 7th at 7 PM. First for the Sounders though is their regular season opener as they host newcomers Los Angeles FC this Sunday at 2 PM Pacific.