Match analysis: Dempsey goal gives Seattle 1-0 win over Chivas

Seattle Sounders FC put in a complete performance against Chivas de Guadalajara as they thrilled the home crowd with a 1-0 win. Both sides played aggressively and the game became an end-to-end affair for much of the second half. A strong defensive performance from Chad Marshall and Stefan Frei helped Seattle keep a clean sheet while it was Clint Dempsey who would score the winner in the 78th minute.

Chivas opened the match with intense pressure on the ball, forcing Seattle into mistakes early on. Eleven minutes into the match Alejandro Mayorga slipped into the box in front of the Seattle defense to register the first shot of the match. Stefan Frei had to make himself big to make the save and then paw away the rebound and keep a clean sheet.

In the 33rd minute a slip by Roman Torres gave Alan Pulido a one-on-one opportunity versus Frei and it looked like Chivas would take the lead. Pulido’s final touch was too strong and allowed Frei enough time to close down on the ball an deny Pulido from finding the net.

Seattle seemed to wake up after the Pulido chance as they began to gain more possession and create chances although the chances were further from goal and didn’t trouble keeper Rodolfo Cota.

Don’t miss: In pictures – Seattle Sounders 1-0 Chivas Guadalajara

The second half seemed the exact opposite as Seattle came out as the team pressuring the ball and forcing the issue looking to take the match in their control. Seattle did well to cut down passing lanes and frustrate Guadalajara when in possession to force turnovers. They attacked Chivas down the wings, stretching the defence and creating gaps in the box that would eventually give them the opening goal.

Henry Wingo came on as a substitute in the 73rd minute for Handwalla Bwana, who had an impressive performance in his first start, and made an immediate impact on the wing. Wingo was able to consistently get dangerous balls into the box from out wide and pick out players in open space. In the 78th minute Wingo makes a run towards the corner flag into space and receives a pass from Jordan McCrary. He lets the ball run until about five yards from the endline before whipping in a low cross right in between four Guadalajara players to the feet of Dempsey for a first-time strike past Cota.

Through much of the second half, Guadalajara left space open around the top of the box and were beat to crosses as Sounders began to take control of the match. Dempsey had two other chances that looked similar to the play he was able to score on, where a cross from a wide area pulled Chivas out of position and allowed Seattle to find Dempsey for a scoring opportunity. The third of these chances came in the 82nd minute and it looked as though Dempsey would have a wide open goal to target but his shot was skied over the bar.

Seattle will hope the missed opportunities do not come back to haunt them in the second leg as they travel to Guadalajara Wednesday March 14th looking for a result that will send them to the CCL semifinals for the second time in club history.

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In pictures: Seattle Sounders 1-0 Chivas Guadalajara – Dempsey fires Sounders to first-leg victory

The Seattle Sounders completed the job in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal clash with Chivas Guadalajara on Wednesday night. Clint Dempsey fired the game’s only goal late into the second half, giving the Sounders the advantage ahead of the return leg in Mexico.

It was a fairly even match, as expected, with both sides creating opening they will feel they could have scored from. Stefan Frei came up big for Seattle in the first half, denying Alejandro Mayorga and Alan Pulido to keep the score at 0-0.

Will Bruin then came closest to opening the scoring as his header clipped off the post. But Seattle kept plugging away and got their reward on 78 minutes. Henry Wingo came off the bench and did well down the right flank. And it was the homegrown attacker who provided the pass for the breakthrough.

Wingo’s low cross was met by Dempsey in the box, who slotted in first time to earn an important first-leg win for the Sounders. The two sides will meet again next Wednesday at Estadio Chivas to determine who advances to the semi’s.

Check out exclusive photos from Wednesday’s game below, courtesy of MLSGB photographers Denise McCooey and Paul Kahl.

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Second half explosion gives Sounders 4-0 win over Santa Tecla in CCL

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.

In pictures: Seattle Sounders 4-0 Santa Tecla – Sounders cruise into CCL quarterfinals

Seattle Sounders 4-0 Santa Tecla – Seattle overturned their 2-1 first-leg defeat in emphatic style as they put four goals past El Salvador’s Santa Tecla to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.

The Sounders knew they had to break down a solid Santa Tecla defence to have any chance of progressing but they went into halftime with the score at 0-0. Brian Schmetzer made a tactical switch to a 4-4-2 diamond formation for the second minutes, and it paid dividends almost immediately.

Will Bruin opened the scoring in the 47th minute, before Nicolas Lodeiro put the hosts in the driving seat on 69 minutes. Lodeiro – who assisted Bruin’s goal – then set up Chad Marshall off a set piece in the 81st minute to make it 3-0.

Winter signing Magnus Wolff Eikrem made his debut on Thursday night, coming on for the start of the second-half. He made an immediate impact, impressing with his passing and off the ball movement. He capped off a fine debut by scoring the final goal in the 83rd minute.

The Sounders will now face Liga MX side CD Guadalajara in the quarterfinals, starting with the home leg next Wednesday.

Check out exclusive photos from Seattle’s win over Santa Tecla on Thursday night, courtesy of MLSGB photographers Denise McCooey and Paul Kahl.

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Morris injured as Seattle struggles in 2-1 loss to Santa Tecla

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.

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.

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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.

Podcast: DC United, Real Salt Lake and Tottenham discussed

In this week’s MLSGB Podcast, Zack Walford talks to Louis East and Jamie Ives about DC United and Real Salt Lake’s chances in MLS this year as the new season is just four days away.

The team then move on to look at Tottenham’s Premier League title bid and whether or not they have what it takes to go all the way.

As always, comment below with your thoughts, or get in touch on Twitter.

Gallery: Exclusive photos from Seattle’s 2-2 draw with Club America

Seattle Sounders endured mixed emotions as they played their first competitive match of 2016 on Tuesday night as they drew 2-2 at home to Club America in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal clash.

Seattle led twice, with Clint Dempsey scoring both goals, but the Liga MX side battled well to earn a valuable 2-2 draw, with the two away goals a blow for the Sounders.

A huge crowd of 42,836 were in attendance at CenturyLink Field for the game – a club record for a CONCACAF Champions League match – and they will have been pleased by the performance of their team.

Check out the following photos from Tuesday’s game, taken by MLSGB photographer Denise McCooey in Seattle:

Photo: Denise McCooey

Photo: Denise McCooey

Photo: Denise McCooey

Photo: Denise McCooey

Photo: Denise McCooey

Photo: Denise McCooey

Photo: Denise McCooey

Photo: Denise McCooey

Photo: Denise McCooey

Photo: Denise McCooey

Photo: Denise McCooey

Photo: Denise McCooey

Photo: Denise McCooey

Photo: Denise McCooey

Photo: Denise McCooey

Photo: Denise McCooey

Sigi Schmid “very proud” after Sounders’ 2-2 draw with Club America

The CONCACAF Champions League sprung back into life on Tuesday night with the first legs of the quarterfinals getting underway. Seattle Sounders earned a 2-2 draw at home to Club America in what was their first competitive match of 2016, with Clint Dempsey scoring both of the Sounders’ goals.

Seattle had the daunting prospect of hosting reigning champions Club America in a tricky looking game but will be pleased with their performance, even if the result wasn’t what they wanted.

Dempsey’s performance in particular will have delighted the capacity crowd of 42,836 at CenturyLink Field – a club record for a CONCACAF Champions League match – with the forward looking very sharp on either side of the ball.

His excellent free-kick before halftime put Seattle in front, before a very quick response from the Liga MX giants made it 1-1 at the break. Dempsey then headed the Rave Green back in front in the 52nd minute, only for Oribe Peralta to net a valuable second goal for Club America.

Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid was pleased with the performance of his players, despite letting a lead go twice at home, and thinks there are positives to take from the game heading into the second-leg.

“Obviously there are things we want to get better at moving forward, and we will,” he said after the game. “For this stage of our season, and for where they are in their season, and the quality of team they are, I thought we showed well. I was very proud with what our guys did.

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“I think Clint played very well. He’s coming off the left for us – we were trying to give him some spaces there in the first half – and we needed [Andreas] Ivanschitz to push a little wider left to allow Clint to stay up higher. In the second half, he was able to stay higher, so more of his touches came in the attacking end of the field. Those are tweaks in the system that we are working on and getting better with.”

Seattle will travel to Mexico for the second-leg of their clash with Club America next Wednesday before hosting Sporting KC in their 2016 MLS opener on Sunday, March 6.

Were you impressed with Seattle’s performance against Club America on Tuesday night?

*Header image courtesy of Seattle Sounders FC. Photo taken by Jane Gershovich.

PHOTOS: Exclusive images from Vancouver and Seattle’s CONCACAF Champions League clash

Just days after the Vancouver Whitecaps piled more misery on the Seattle Sounders with that 3-0 MLS win at CenturyLink Field, the two sides met again in their first CONCACAF Champions League game of the year at BC Place.

The game between the Cascadia rivals ended 1-1 on Wednesday night in what will be seen as a better result for the Sounders than the Whitecaps, especially when you consider Sigi Schmid’s team’s recent form.

Going on the road at earning a point in the Champions League is never a bad result and the Sounders will now hope to kick on in league play when they take to the field against LA Galaxy at StubHub Center on Sunday.

A Lamar Neagle goal tied the game in Vancouver after defender Tim Parker scored with a backheel flick just after 61 minutes as both sides fielded several reserve players.

The two teams will next meet in the Champions League on September 23 at CenturyLink Field in what will be the Sounders’ final group stage game.

Check out the photos below taken by our North American photographer, Denise McCooey:

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Preview: Montreal Impact face triple threat in Champions League final first leg

By Sandy Beeson – Twitter: @Sandy_Beeson

For Montreal Impact, facing Mexican giants Club América in the CONCACAF Champions League final would seem a stern enough challenge on its own, but when you factor in both a record attendance and a substantial increase in altitude, Wednesday’s first leg becomes even more daunting for the history-making Canadian side.

Reports from Mexico suggest that the iconic Estadio Azteca has already sold out with a 105,000 capacity crowd expected. That figure would eclipse any equivalent attendance from UEFA’s showpiece event since Real Madrid beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in 1960 in front of 127,621 at Glasgow’s Hampden Park.

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Fortunately for the Impact, the second leg will be hosted at Montreal’s Stade Olympique where there will also be a capacity crowd, albeit a decidedly more modest audience of 58,000.

Prior to this season, Montreal had held the CONCACAF Champions League attendance record since 2009, until the 55,571 that saw Impact beat Santos Laguna 2-0 was eclipsed by Wednesday’s opponents earlier this month. Club América welcomed 66,208 to the Azteca to witness an emphatic 6-0 semi-final win over Costa Rica’s Herediano to book their place in the final.

Montreal also saw off Costa Rican opposition in the semis, defeating Alajuelense on away goals to become the first ever Canadian side to advance to the final of either the Champions League or its predecessor the Champions Cup. Victory would not only make them the first Canadian champions but also the first MLS champions since the Champions League era began in 2008.

Standing between them and victory is Club América, this season’s top scorers with a formidable 30 goals from the eight games they’ve played. Forwards Darío Benedetto, Martín Zúñiga and Mexican international Oribe Peralta have combined for 14 goals between them, one more than the Impact’s entire total in this year’s competition.

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Not only will Montreal Impact be coming up against this season’s outstanding performers in one of the most formidable arenas in world football, they will do so at an altitude of 2,200 metres. Preparation is key in such circumstances and Montreal have given themselves as much time to acclimatise in Mexico City as possible, having arrived last Wednesday, thanks to a bye week in MLS.

A similar arrangement paid dividends at the quarter-final stage as a Dilly Duka double secured a vital 2-2 in the first leg against Pachuca, following a fortnight acclimatising at 2,400 metres, with Montreal eventually progressing on away goals.

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The Impact would hope for a similar outcome from Wednesday’s game and will need to put in a disciplined defensive display if they are to achieve it. They’ve got the personnel to keep themselves in contention but they will need the likes of former Belgian international Laurent Ciman, experienced centre-back Hassoun Camara and the tenacious Nigel Reo-Coker to perform heroically if they are to still be in the tie by next week’s second leg in Canada.