Santos Laguna are heading back to the CONCACAF Champions League final, but it didn't come easy. The Seattle Sounders pushed Santos late in Tuesday's semifinal second leg and almost found the tie-winning goal, but in the end, Santos held on for the 1-1 draw and 2-1 aggregate win.
The Sounders started with a good bit of possession, but with Mauro Rosales on the bench, Obafemi Martins injured and Eddie Johnson showing the rust that comes with an injury layoff, Seattle couldn't do much to create chances or turn the ball on goal.
While Seattle knocked the ball around without any idea of how to go forward, Santos was happy to sit back and defend, then whenever the Sounders gave the ball up they countered quickly. A few of their early rushes went haywire, but the threat was evident and Seattle's defense was on their heels whenever Santos had the ball.
The uncertainty in the Sounders defense hurt them in the 21st minute when they gave away a foul 25 yards from goal. Darwin Quintero then stepped to the free kick and rifled it off the underside of the crossbar and in for the opening tally. With a 1-0 lead in the match and a 2-0 lead on aggregate, Santos was sitting pretty.
But Santos' sloppy passing in the final third continued when they countered. Combined with poor finishing, they couldn't find another goal and allowed Seattle to hang around.
That almost came back to bite Santos because when Rosales came on for Seattle, the Sounders got a lot more dangerous. The Sounders' finishing still left a lot to be desired, but at least they started creating chances and it paid off when Lamar Neagle broke down the right and crossed, only for the ball to be deflected back to Neagle for a tap-in.
With the match tied at 1-1 and Seattle down just 2-1 on aggregate, they only needed one more goal to put themselves through to the final on away goals. There was hope in the Seattle team, but it would go for naught.
The Sounders pushed for another goal, but they couldn't get any shots away that really troubled Oswaldo Sanchez. Djimi Traore had a chance on a header, but he whiffed, the ball went off of his shoulder and Sanchez saved easily. Another time Shalrie Joseph fired wildly from 30 yards and when Sammy Ochoa had an opening, he couldn't do anything with it as Santos held on to book their spot in the final for a second consecutive year.