MLS teams continued their dismal run on Mexican soil as Santos Laguna used a dominant second half display to overpower the Seattle Sounders 6-1 on the evening and 7-3 on aggregate to advance to the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Seattle deserves credit for going into Mexico with the intention to attack rather than sit back and try to defend their slim 2-1 advantage from the first leg. Sigi Schmid’s positive approach almost paid immediate dividends, but Oswaldo Sanchez made a tremendous double save in the 8th minute. Santos were then quickly rewarded for their goalkeeper’s heroics at the other end as Cristian Suarez walked along the top of the box and curled in the opener with Jeff Parke giving the forward way too much space to operate.
Less than 60 seconds later, Santos doubled their lead, as Oribe Peralta took a through ball at the top of the box and brilliantly turned and fired home while in the process of being dragged to the turf.
The second goal originated with a through ball from a very open midfield. Santos were taking advantage of the spaces with short passes in the middle of the park while waiting for the space to open up top for the killer through ball.
After the shock wore off, the Sounders closed the midfield and went back on the attack, moving the ball well, but their passes and movements were too easily telegraphed in the offensive third. One reason for this was a lack of involvement on the part of Fredy Montero.
When the Colombian decided to join the game in the 37th minute, he popped up on the left and sent in a pinpoint cross for Alvaro Fernandez to bury his header. The Uruguayan’s strike putting the Sounders back in the contest and setting things up nicely for the final 45 minutes of the tie.
Seattle’s desire to go forward got the best of them in the 49th as Santos executed on the counter attack. With bodies pushed forward, Santos cleared the ball out of their box and in a blink of an eye Herculez Gomez was finishing at the other end just four passes and twelve seconds later. Gomez's immaculate form continues as he has now scored in 5 straight matches for Santos.
From that point on, Santos regained its dominance in midfield. Suarez was holding the ball well up top which was keeping Seattle stretched while strike partner Peralta was making smart darting runs into the spaces. This allowed the rest of the Santos midfield to push higher up, keeping Seattle from reestablishing possession.
Suarez began to pull out wide on the right for Santos, stretching out Seattle’s back-line and opening up space in that right hand channel. It was from that space where Santos’ final three goals originated.
The killer blow came in the 67th minute as Jorge Estrada found Peralta on one of his clever little runs into the right hand channel. The 28-year-old raced into the box and squared the ball across for Gomez to claim his brace. The goal was Herc's 7th in the last 5 games across all competitions!
As the Sounders continued to wilt in the altitude of Torreon, Estrada took advantage of the space down the right and fed a delightful ball for Suarez who needed just one touch to settle before hammering his second goal of the evening into the back post.
The left side of the Sounders’ defense was exploited once again as substitute Carlos Ochoa ran into the open space and slotted his shot beyond Michael Gspurning at his near post for his club's 6th goal of the match.
Even if Santos didn’t explode for four second-half goals, Seattle never looked like getting back into it. Montero looked out of sorts, while Eddie Johnson only created one opportunity after coming on for the final 30 minutes. While Santos showed their superiority on the field, Sigi Schmid was outclassed by his counter part, Benjamin Galindo. While the former Mexican international made all the right adjustments, Schmid never countered.
It's now up to either the Galaxy or TFC to knock Santos off in the semi-finals, but it's going to be a tough task, especially in Mexico.
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