Sounders FC completed an unbeaten run through CONCACAF Champions League Group 4 with a 3-1 win over Marathon of Honduras tonight.
The result will give Seattle the No. 3 seed when the tournament resumes with its quarterfinal round in early March. The opening opponent will be determined by the results of the final group-stage games Thursday.
The Sounders had already clinched the top spot in its group before the Wedneday match. However, with more favorable seeding at stake, Seattlecoach Sigi Schmid had hoped his team could jump ahead early to break the spirit of a Marathon team that was playing for nothing but pride.
His team made it happen by jumping two goals ahead in the first half hour.The breakthrough came in the 23rd minute, when Mario Martinez sent a cross into the box, and Sammy Ochoa knocked it home from near the penalty spot.
Seattle added to its lead five minutes later when Steve Zakauni cut past a defender in the area and scored to the near post from about 10 yards.
Marathon responded in the 37th minute when Tulio Vega took a ball into the right side of the area. Goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann came out toward him, but Vega squared a pass across the box when Michael Brown knocked it into an empty net.
However, the Sounders put the game away in the 76th minute, when David Estrada got to a ball in front of the goal at sent it into the top of the netting.
Seattle concludes its Major League Soccer regular season Sunday at Los Angeles.76th minute:
GOAL Seattle. David Estrada into the top of the netting from close range. Sounders, 3-1.
Attendance: 7,874. Second-lowest at CenturyLink.
Through 60: Still Sounders, 2-1. Zakuani and Martinez having some highlight moments.
Second half: ... had begun. One sub: Burch for Parke.
Halftime: Sounders 2, Marathon 1. Halftime stats: shots 10-3 SEA; on goal 5-1 SEA, corners 5-1 SEA; duels won 56.1% MAR; possession 58.6 SEA.
37th minute: GOAL Marathon. Hahnemann comes out at Vega, who slides pass across to Brown, who scores into open net. Hahnemann asks for offside, but flag stays down. Sounders, 2-1.
28th minute. GOAL Seattle. Steve Zakuani with authority from about 10 yards. Sounders 2-0. Now Marathon's will will be tested.
23rd minute: GOAL Seattle ... the early one that Schmid wanted. Mario Martinez send pass in from the right, and Sammy Ochoa knocks it in from near the penalty spot. Sounders, 1-0.
First 20 minutes: Still scoreless at CLink. Schmid wanted early goal to break Marathon spirit. No indication yet that they're mailing it in.
First kick: We're under way. Sounders in cyan, and Marathon in an unfortunately cyanish green.
Lineups: For Seattle: Hahnemann, Seamon, Parke, Hurtado, Scott, Martinez, Carrasco, Rose, Zakuani, Estrada, Ochoa. Reserves: Weber, Burch, Cato, Caskey, Montero, Tiffert, Evans.
For Marathon: G Mendoza; D Castro, Arzu, Sabillon; M Meza, Mayorquin, Acededo, Berrios F Altamirano, Vega, Brown. Reserves: Orio, Aquillar, Diamond, Fuentes.
Pregame: The tarps are back up in the south end zone -- though not over the Hawks Nest, as the Sounders count down to the final match of CONCACAF Champions League group stage.
Perhaps the smallest crowd ever to watch Sounders FC in this stadium will turn out -- through some combination of the competition, the sort of distant meaningfulness of the match, the relatively low-profile opponent, the midweek date, and the iffy weather. (Cloudy and cool, but no rain, as I type this.)
That said, the match does have meaning in CCL quarterfinal seeding. And it will be interesting to see Marcus Hahnemann in goal. And it will be interesting to see what Mario Martinez does against his hometown club -- especially after his public plea for more playing time.
The game will be shown on Fox Soccer, heard on the usual radio outlets, blogged here, and tweeted @donruiztnt.
I'll be back with lineups and any other pregame news as it happens.