Herculez Gomez has tormented MLS teams, scoring eight goals against them in CONCACAF Champions League play, his entire account in the competition. On Tuesday, he made it nine with the match-winner to beat the Seattle Sounders 1-0 at CenturyLink Field and to send Santos Laguna back to Torreon for the second leg of the semifinals with a foot in the final.
The Sounders looked good at times, but they missed Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins, both of whom missed the match due to injury. Without the pair up front, the Sounders' finishing left a lot to be desired. That was especially true whenever Sammy Ochoa got in front of goal as his finishing was as abysmal as ever, even missing a shot from 12 yards out so badly that it went out for a throw-in. Toss in an inability to create chances at times without Steve Zakuani and Mauro Rosales, both of whom started on the bench while Shalrie Joseph passed backwards whenever possible, and the Sounders didn't have much of a chance to make good on some of their bright spells.
Meanwhile, Santos was happy to defend and counter. Felipe Baloy and Rafael Figueroa were dominant in the center of defense and helped clear away Seattle's 11 corner kicks, while Gomez, Oribe Peralta and Carlos Quintero were regularly threatening on the counterattack.
Quintero was the main danger man for Santos, while Gomez kept finding himself in front of goal, and they reprised those roles on the match-winner.
The play started with Quintero coming up the center and making DeAndre Yedlin decide whether to step to him or try to mark Gomez, who was on the left. The 19-year-old tried both, which allowed Quintero enough room to have a go from 20 yards. It was a hard shot and one that Marcus Hahnemann should have probably pushed well wide, but instead he parried it back in front of goal, where Gomez was waiting to smash it home.
Rosales and Zakuani finally came off the bench and gave the Sounders somewhat of a spark, but it wasn't enough. Ochoa wasted chances and Mario Martinez continued to give the ball away, while Zach Scott headed the Sounders' best chance right at Oswaldo Sanchez.
Santos now heads home with a one-goal advantage and an away goal in their pocket, making them very heavy favorites to advance to the final for the second time in as many years.