Before taking the pitch, Sounders FC didn't hesitate to characterize its match at CD Saprissa as a do-or-die game.
And so Seattle’s 2-0 loss means its hopes of advancing out of CONCACAF Champions League Group C are now pretty well dead.
Halfway through this stage, the group has established a clear pecking order: Monterrey has beaten everyone, Saprissa has beaten everyone but Monterrey, Marathon has beaten Seattle, and Seattle hasn't beaten anyone.
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That means that with three return matches remaining, the Sounders have no chance of getting to the 10-point total that usually marks advancement into the knockout rounds. And the group’s toughest challenge lies directly ahead: a Sept. 22 visit to Monterrey.
That game would have projected considerably differently if Seattle had been able to steal at win against the Purple Monsters.
And for 38 minutes, that seemed possible.
But then Sounders defender Leo Gonzalez – a Costa Rica native – received a straight red card for a studs up challenge. And from then on, Saprissa’s one-man advantage shifted the game in their direction.
They broke through when David Guzman beat Sounders’ keeper Terry Boss from the top of the area in the 54th minute. They put it away when Allan Aleman finished a counterattack in the 72nd minute.
In between, the Sounders had one chance to equalize when Fredy Montero drew a foul in the penalty area. However, Saprissa goalkeeper Fausto Gonzalez saved Osvaldo Alonzo’s penalty kick.The Sounders return to MLS play Saturday at Columbus.
Scoring Summary: CD Saprissa - Guzman (Paniagua) 56, Aleman (Martinez) 82 Sounders FC - None
CD Saprissa - F.Gonzalez, G. Badilla, V. Cordero, R. Blanco, J. Martinez (J. Mena, 46) W. Centeno, J. Lopez (D. Guzman, 73), F. Paniagua, E. Sirias, A. Alonso (A. Aleman, 63), J. Arrieta.
TOTAL SHOTS: 15; SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 ; FOULS: 13; OFFSIDES: 1; CORNER KICKS: 2; SAVES: 3.
Seattle Sounders FC - T. Boss, Z. Scott, T. Marshall, T. Graham, L. Gonzalez, S. Nyassi, O. Alonso, N. Sturgis (A. Fernandez, 64), S. Zakuani (T. Wahl, 46) , F. Montero, R. Levesque (M. Fucito, 72).
TOTAL SHOTS: 11; SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 ; FOULS: 11 ; OFFSIDES: 1; CORNER KICKS: 2; SAVES: 3.
Seattle Sounders FC - L. Gonzalez (red) 38, R. Levesque (yellow) 43, T. Boss (yellow) 53, A. Fernandez (yellow) 86, T. Wahl (yellow) 90. CD Saprissa - W. Centeno (yellow) 86. Referee: M. RodriguezReferee's Assistants: J. Camargo, A. Morin4th Official: J. Solis
81st minute: A Sounders' corner kick morphed into a Saprissa counter attack, which ended with a point-blank shot from the penalty spot going in and putting the home team ahead 2-0.
71st minute: Michael Fucito in for Roger Levesque.
68th minute: Fredy Montero drew a foul in the box. However, Sigi Schmid doesn't like fouled players taking PKs, so Osvaldo Alonso took the shot, which was saved by Saprissa keeper, Fausto Gonzalez. It remains, 1-0, for the Purple Monsters.
64th minute: Fernandez in for Sturgis.
56th minute: Saprissa goes ahead 1-0 on a 23-yarder from the top of the box, beating Terry Boss to the low left pole.
Second half: Has begun. One sub: Wahl in for Zakuani.
Halftime: The Sounders get to the half even at 0-0. However, they really need to steal three points, and that's a tall order one man down on the road.
Monterrey, meanwhile, has already won tonight, 2-0 at home over Marathon.
39th minute: Seattle has had the better of things, but that could be about to change as Leo Gonzalez has been sent off with a straight red card after a high kick and sinking his studs into a Saprissa player's gut. Even before the incident, Gonzalez -- who is from Costa Rica -- had been enduring whistles from the Saprissa fans in his hometown of San Jose.
Kickoff: Here we go...
Lineup: Here's how Sigi Schmid is setting them up: Gk Boss; D Scott, Graham, Marshall, Gonzalez; M Nyassi, Sturgis, Alonso, Zakuani; F. Montero, Levesque.
Interesting lineup for a do-or-die game. And most interesting is Terry Boss in goal. Just a couple of days ago I had written a bit about Boss' lack of playing time this season.
Pregame: Reminder that the Sounders and Saprissa will meet in a crucial CONCACAF Champions League match at 7 p.m. from Costa Rica. The game will be shown on Fox Soccer Channel.
We'll keep this post open all evening for pregame, in-game and postgame reports and comments. I'll probably be back next with the starting lineup.