By DAN KARELL
Santos Laguna are 90 minutes away from knocking off a third Major League Soccer team from the CONCACAF Champions League. That is, unless the Seattle Sounders have anything to say about it.
The Sounders arrived yesterday in Torreon, Mexico, carrying with them the pressures of their league’s expectations and the weight of a one-goal deficit heading into a difficult environment. Santos’s Estadio Corona is the definition of a fortress: since the start of 2012, the club have lost just two competitive games at home. In the Champions League, the undefeated streak stretches back to March of 2011.
In the first-leg of the Champions League semifinal match-up, Santos walked out of Seattle with a 1-0 victory, the goal scored by former Sounders forward Herculez Gomez. The home side were missing numerous starters, but have been buoyed by the return of winger Eddie Johnson, who traveled with the squad to Mexico.
“Anything is possible, but we know it’s going to be a tough game,” Johnson said to MLSSoccer.com. “It’s very difficult to play here and we experienced that last season but we’ve got a new group. … We’re down here to get a good result.”
While there is good news about Johnson, the Sounders will be without Brad Evans in the midfield and Obafemi Martins, who is recovering from a knee injury picked up during the international break.
A win or draw for Santos Laguna would mean that they are one step closer to a re-match of last year’s CCL final with Monterrey, presuming Monterrey win or draw at home on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Galaxy. If Seattle wins, it would be only the second time an MLS team has made it to the final under the current format.
SANTOS LAGUNA vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS
WHEN: Tuesday, 8pm
ON THE AIR: Fox Soccer Channel
WHERE: Estadio Corona, Torreon, Mexico
PLAYERS TO WATCH: SANTOS LAGUNA – Oribe Peralta, Darwin Quintero, Felipe Baloy, Herculez Gomez; SEATTLE SOUNDERS- Eddie Johnson, Osvaldo Alonso, Mauro Rosales, Mario Martinez.