Evans goal clinches CCL group early for Sounders
By Michael Ligot
SAN PEDRO SULA, HONDURAS — Two years ago, the Seattle Sounders FC were out of their depth in the CONCACAF Champions League, in both experience and roster depth.
This time around, they’re group champions.
Substitute Brad Evans scored the decisive goal off a pass from another substitute, Osvaldo Alonso. That connection gave the Sounders a 3-2 victory over Honduras’ Marathón, and clinched Group 4 with one game to spare.
Alonso entered the game for a tiring Alex Caskey an hour into a 1-1 game, and his entry immediately sparked Seattle. Two minutes after the Cuban’s bow, Andy Rose found Eddie Johnson in the box, and Johnson’s turnaround shot using Pastor Martinez as a screen beat Marathón goalkeeper José Mendoza.
Green Monster captain Mario Berrios knotted the match for a second time, on his second penalty conversion on the night, in the 68th. minute. Brad Evans then stepped in for Rose, and 10 minutes later scored the winning goal. Alonso’s right-midfield service after a thwarted Sounders corner found Evans in the box, and the Arizonan’s jumping snap-header gave Mendoza no chance.
Evans’ winner gave the Sounders nine points in three games, and eliminated the Monster, who sit on one after two games. Trinidad and Tobago’s Caledonia was already unplugged, with one point from three games.
The victory also highlighted the marketed difference between this season’s Sounders and the 2010 version that played in San Pedro Sula, Honduras’ financial center. The then-sophomore franchise couldn’t hold up an early lead and fell to Marathón 2-1. It emphasized how overmatched they were in a bodacious CCL group that also included Costa Rica’s Saprissa and eventual champion Monterey of Mexico, finishing bottom.
This time around, Seattle boasted the added experience of two more trophy wins (the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup) and MLS playoff qualifications, plus a much deeper roster than the thin group typical of the North American circuit of the time. Head Coach Sigi Schmid enjoyed the luxury of resting key but dinged-up midfielders Mauro Rosales and Christian Tiffert back home, and leaving Alonso, Evans and high-scoring Fredy Montero on the bench.
Seattle also had Mario Martinez, a Honduras national team player on loan with Marathón’s cross-town rival Real España. Martinez wasted little time burning the enemy fans.
Ten minutes in, Martinez launched a cross from the left corner flag, which found Ochoa shaking clear of Luis Castro and Mariano Acevedo. The Mexican-American dove toward the service and headed it sideways for the game’s first goal. Ochoa has now scored in each of the Group 3 games this season.
The Green Monster leveled the score from the spot 25 minutes after. Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning took down a free-and-clear Michael Brown, and Berrios converted the penalty granted by Salvadorian referee Marlon Alfonso Mejia.
Marathón then took control of a stylistically bizarre game, with the Sounders dominating possession but the Monster owning shots (9-4 first half advantage). With Seattle stuck in its own half, Schmid used the opportunity to bring in usual starters resting for the huge San Jose league clash Saturday. That led to Johnson’s marker, Berrios’ second penalty (his seventh career goal for Marathón in the CCL) after Patrick Ianni knocked over Julian Rapalo, and Evans’ game- and group-winner.
Seattle now can give their depth players match minutes for the meaningless group finale against the Monster Wednesday, October 24 in CenturyLink Field. Marathón, surprisingly tied for last in the Honduran League’s Apertura standings, will grudgingly do the same then and in their also-meaningless home CCL match versus Caledonia next Thursday.
Seattle Sounders FC - Michael Gspurning, Zach Scott, Patrick Ianni, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Marc Burch, Mario Martinez, Servando Carrasco, Andy Rose (Brad Evans 69), Alex Caskey (Osvaldo Alonso 61), Sammy Ochoa, Eddie Johnson (Fredy Montero 76).
Substitutes Not Used: Josh Ford, Jeff Parke, Leo Gonzalez, Osvaldo Alonso, Cordell Cato.
TOTAL SHOTS: 7; SHOTS ON GOAL: 3; FOULS: 19; OFFSIDE: 3; CORNER KICKS: 4; SAVES: 3.
CD Marathon - Jose Mendoza, Mauritius Sabillon, Luis Castro, Pastor Martinez (Quiarol Arzu 77), Mario Berrios, Junior Sandoval (Cristhian Altamirano 46), Mariano Acevedo, Reinieri Mayorquin, Julian Rapalo, Mitchell Brown, Randy Diamond (Rony Flores 69).
Substitutes Not Used: Shane Orio, David Meza, Tuliko Vega, Manuel De Jesus Dono.
TOTAL SHOTS: 20; SHOTS ON GOAL: 5; FOULS: 17; OFFSIDE: 5; CORNER KICKS: 6; SAVES: 0.
SEA – Servando Carrasco (caution) 26′
SEA – Michael Gspurning (caution) 34′
MAR – Luis Castro (caution) 42′
SEA – Patrick Ianni (caution) 67′
SEA – Zach Scott (caution) 72′
MAR – Reinieri Mayorquin (caution) 84′
Referee: Marlon Mejia