By Jose M. Romero
Qwest Field just didn't look quite the same with all those empty seats, but home was still good to Seattle Sounders FC Wednesday night in its first-ever CONCACAF Champions League match.
The Sounders, decked out in their third "electricity" kits, provided all the energy in their 1-0 preliminary knockout-round, first-leg win over Isidro Metapan of El Salvador. The preliminary round is aggregate-goal based, so the Sounders go to Estadio Cuscatlan in San Salvador for a 10 p.m., EST second leg next Tuesday with the upper hand in advancing to the CCL group stage.
Striker Fredy Montero was instant electricity, coming on as a sub for Nate Jaqua in the 60th minute and finding the net with his first shot, a long one-bouncer from perhaps 35 yards out that goalkeeper Misael Alfaro couldn't gather in. The ball bounced off his arms and over the goal line.
"We wanted to hold them at zero at home and get as many goals as possible at home," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. "We also wanted to make sure that we can play with a strong lineup when we go down to El Salvador because it's going to be a hostile environment. The refereeing certainly is going to be a little different than it is in the MLS and it's going to be a situation where we're going to need our veteran players down there to get the result that we need to advance."
The Sounders dominated offensive play before 17,228 fans, less than half of a typical regular-season home crowd. Starting in the 21st minute, the Sounders' attack came to life. Right wing Sanna Nyassi came flying in to deliver a cross that left winger Miguel Montano just missed, and Nyassi remained active with chances, his speed surprising the Metapan defenders.
Seattle had plenty of space in the midfield in the first half to work the ball toward the goal. Metapan opted for hard tackling and aggressive play throughout the match, and really only had one great chance to score, coming in the 41st minute.
In the 29th minute, the ball came to Montano, who centered to forward Roger Levesque, who laid the ball off to Mike Seamon. The rookie's shot, again in open space, was deflected away for a corner kick as Seattle kept up the pressure.
Holding midfielder Pete Vagenas was injured away from the ball early in the match and was replaced by Osvaldo Alonso. Schmid got a chance for a long look at youngsters Seamon and Montano, and rarely-used defender Taylor Graham made the most of his opportunity to play.
Nyassi missed a chance wide left late in the second half, and Seamon couldn't finish another in injury time of the second half, but the Sounders had enough to win back-to-back matches for the first time this season.
Next up is a road game at San Jose Saturday, than the long trip to Central America. The Sounders will play in the capital and not the city of Metapan's Estadio Suarez (capacity 8,000) because, according to Metapan coach Edwin Portillo, CONCACAF did not approve of the use of the stadium for CCL matches.
"We are from the municipality, not the capital," Portillo said after explaining how his team wasn't used to playing in front of such a big crowd. "It will take two hours (to get to San Salvador) and it's a weekday so people have to work. I will not create false expectations. I expect 3,000 from the capital and a few more from the municipality."