By JASON MITCHELL
What a difference a year, and some experience, is making for the Seattle Sounders.
The Sounders scrounged a meager three points from six group-stage matches last summer and fall, their first foray into CONCACAF Champions League. One year later, the Sounders are perched atop their group with a perfect 3-0 record after Wednesday night's 2-1 win over CS Herediano in Costa Rica.
With the score tied 1-1 in the second half, Montero broke the deadlock by toeing in a Roger Levesque shot that goalkeeper Daniel Cambronero deflected across the face of the goal in the 55th minute. The Colombian striker's second goal of the night proved to be the game winner.
Seattle's victory, paired with Monterrey’s startling stumble in Guatemala, brings the knockout stage tantalizingly close for the Sounders. Two of Seattle’s remaining three matches are at CenturyLink Field, and one of those is Tuesday against hapless Herediano, which has now been outscored 9-1 in three matches.
The Sounders, fielding a lineup laced with reserves, scored just four minutes into the match. A nice build-up left Nate Jaqua with the ball above the box as Montero sliced through the arc into the penalty area. A softly pushed ball from Jaqua found Montero just as he split defenders and slipped into open space to the right of the penalty spot. The Colombian only needed one touch to scoot the ball into the net.
Herediano earned a questionable penalty kick in first-half stoppage time, making it look like controversy would mar yet another Major League Soccer visit south of the border. José Cancela, formerly of the Colorado Rapids and New England Revolution, converted the equalizer for Herediano (0-3), but the Sounders responded early in the second half.
The Rojiamarillos threw bodies forward for the last 20 minutes, keeping Kasey Keller fairly busy and more than a little testy behind a back line that occasionally wavered down the stretch. But Herediano's execution failed them time and again.
Perhaps just as importantly, Seattle earned the win while resting several key starters for a busy stretch ahead that includes MLS and CONCACAF matches as well as the U.S. Open Cup final against the Chicago Fire. Mauro Rosales, Erik Friberg, Brad Evans (injury), Mike Fucito, Osvaldo Alonso (yellow card accumulation), Jeff Parke, and Tyson Wahl all rested. James Riley didn't come on until after the 90th minute.
What did you think of the match? Think Seattle has what it takes to match Real Salt Lake's success last year? See Monterrey recovering and advancing?
Share your thoughts below.