The Seattle Sounders came into the quarterfinal tie with Santos Laguna tonight with one objective: get a result. They got the job done, with a strong 2-1 victory that they will take with them to the second leg in Torreon next week.
The Sounders got the scoring started in the 12th minute through David Estrada, who was on the end of a terrific diagonal cross over the defense from Fredy Montero. Estrada, who is expected to make a major contribution alongside Montero this season for Seattle, headed the ball in and the Sounders had a somewhat surprising lead early in the match. From there, play went back and forth, but besides Alvaro Fernandez's shot from well outside the box near the end of the half that went just over the bar, no clear chances came for either side in the rest of the half.
The play at the start of the second half was of a decent quality for both sides, but neither team had a breakthrough until Herculez Gomez, the best Santos attacking player on the night, evened the score in the 61st minute. Lulling the Sounders' defense to sleep, Gomez made a darting diagonal run and received a great lob in the box, then turned sharply to shake off Leo Gonzalez and scored a goal to the far post. It seemed inevitable that Gomez was going to score on the night, and he certainly did his part to keep Santos in the match.
Despite knotting the score, Santos fell behind again just two minutes later when Brad Evans scored a 50-50 header just outside the 6 yard box off a free kick. Mauro Rosales' set piece found Evans on a short run, and the midfielder made the shot count. From there, the Sounders seemed pretty comfortably in charge of the match, and while Santos tried to get another goal, they came up short. They did have a pretty decent shout for a penalty at the very end of second half injury time, when a Seattle player had the ball go off his arm inside the box. On the replay it looked like it might have been a legitimate appeal, but it frankly seemed like it could be called either way, and the referee decided it was not a penalty.
As a result of the victory, Seattle will be in control, although by no means through to the semifinals, with tonight's win. They will advance if they win again in Torreon, or if they manage a draw. For a team with one of the toughest draws heading into the quarterfinals, they are in control of their destiny. For Santos to advance, they will need to win at home in the second leg. If Santos win 2-1 next week, the match will go into extra time as the teams will be level on both aggregate goals and away goals. Needless to say, both teams have a strong shot to win and considering the quality of play tonight, it should be an interesting rematch in a week's time.