By JASON MITCHELL
SEATTLE – The Seattle Sounders went into Tuesday night's CONCACAF Champions League match boasting a perfect record in group play, but badly needing rest for a squad feeling the fatigue of a full fixture list. With that in mind, the Sounders trotted out a team of mostly reserves to try and keep their group stage record undefeated.
It wasn't enough.
A bit of set-piece brilliance and a stellar night in the net for goalkeeper Daniel Cambronero were just enough for CS Herediano to escape Seattle with a 1-0 win in CONCACAF Champions League group play Tuesday night.
Herediano (1-3) earned a free kick from about 25 yards out in the midst of an open but disjointed first-half featuring a only a smattering of chances for either side. Midfielder Yosimar Arias sent the ball over Seattle’s four-man wall and past Keller’s outstretched hands to put the visitors up 1-0 in the 25th minute.
“It was a good free kick,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid, “Arias hit it well. I didn’t think our wall jumped, but he still hit the free kick well.”
Seattle fielded its most reserve-heavy lineup of the season. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Kasey Keller were the lone regulars to start for a Seattle side laden with injuries, coming off two days rest, and playing in Vancouver Saturday.
Seattle’s potent 2011 attack has been ignited by the international quartet of Mauro Rosales, Alvaro Fernandez, Erik Friberg, and Fredy Montero. Without any of those four on the pitch—not to mention holding midfielder Osvaldo Alonso—the Sounders (3-1) struggled to possess or link up well, especially in the first half.
“I think offensively our struggles were simply that there were too many incomplete passes,” said Schmid. “Not enough rhythm into our game. We weren’t holding onto the ball. Sometimes we knocked it in the back four, but we really didn’t hold onto the ball through midfield and in the wide areas.”
That all changed when Montero and Alonso came on early in the second half, helping Seattle dominate possession for the rest of the night.
“The game certainly changed when they came in," said Schmid. "They’re quality players. Alonso allowed us to get a little quicker to our marks in midfield, which is what I asked him to do. Montero was able to hold the ball a little for us upfront and allowed people to join in.”
But the Sounders couldn't find the back of the net despite sending cross after cross into the box over the match’s last half-hour.
Less-than-perfect crossing and finishing cost them, but Cambronero finished them off. The 24-year-old dove to his left to deny a blistering Lamar Neagle header in the 82nd minute, then leaped to his right to stop a Nate Jaqua header just seven minutes later.
Herediano coach Jafet Soto called Cambronero a “great goalkeeper," adding, "He’s just 24 years old, and he has a great future."
Despite the loss, the Sounders still sit atop Group D, poised to advance to the knockout stage with either a win or a tie when hosting Guatamelan side CSD Comunicaciones next Wednesday.
- Amadou Sanyang, the 20-year-old Gambian signed at the end of July, earned his first start and played 55 minutes or the Sounders. Signed at just 17 by Toronto FC, Sanyang played in 20 matches over two seasons for the Reds.
- Rosales was diagnosed with a small tear in his right medial collateral ligament Tuesday and is likely out 2-to-4 weeks.
- Mike Fucito and James Riley were both unavailable due to injury.
- Attendance: 10,163