It was a tough assignment in the first place, seeking to defeat a tough CD Saprissa squad on its home pitch of Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in San Jose, Costa Rica Tuesday night.
The task became increasingly difficult when, in the 38th minute, Seattle Sounders FC defender Leo Gonzalez incurred a red card for a high kick foul in the thigh towards Jairo Arrieta. Playing with 10 men for the remainder of the round three CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage match, the result was a disappointing 2-0 loss.
The red card tragedy was made even harder to swallow in view of the fact that San Jose is Gonzalez’ home town. This was his first trip back to Costa Rica in a year and the foul was incurred in front of friends and family members during a competition that he hoped would mark a successful homecoming.
The Sounders, desperately needing at least a draw and one point after coming into round three action winless, began fast. The team pressed the early action against a strong Central American rival known for its ability to play possession soccer and keeping the ball away from the opposition.
After the red card misfortune with Gonzalez, Seattle was able to escape closing first period difficulty and retire to the dressing room with a scoreless tie. It was in the second half that the home team was able to assert itself. Using the red card to its advantage, Saprissa was able to tally twice and hold the Sounders at bay with successful possession domination.
On the evening Saprissa held a 15-11 advantage in total shots and a 5-3 on goal edge. Corner kicks were even at 2-2.
Saprissa scored its initial goal in the 56th minute when David Guzman took Fernando Paniagua’s pass and delivered a scorching shot inside the far post past goalkeeper Terry Boss. This was Boss' second competitive match for Seattle. He had replaced an injured Kasey Keller for the second half at Dallas April 22.
Opportunity knocked at its loudest for the Sounders when a 67th minute scoring opportunity beckoned. A driving Fred Montero was tripped inside the box by Saprissa defender Gabriel Badilla.
Sounders midfielder Ozzie Alonso lined up to take the penalty kick. At this point the evening’s dramatic pinnacle arose with the performance of Saprissa’s Fausto Gonzalez, who has been called “the crazy goalkeeper” without any aspersions being cast against his mental stability.
Gonzalez has drawn the name due to his antics prior to an opposing team taking a penalty kick. It is not unusual for a goalkeeper to move from side to side, hoping to distract the penalty kicker as well as prepare himself for the kick at hand. With Gonzalez that tactic is sped up and enhanced. The crowd responded with loud cheers as Gonzalez darted from side to side.
Alonso delivered his kick and Gonzalez achieved a valuable save with one drive to his right.
That was as close as the visitors would come to a score as Fausto Gonzalez emerged with a clean sheet on the evening.
The home team notched an insurance goal on a counter attack in the 82nd minute. Josue Martinez found forward Allan Aleman, who slipped the ball past Boss for a 2-0 advantage.
The defeat dropped Seattle to 0-3 in Group C matches after sustaining a 2-1 setback to CD Marathon in Honduras and 2-0 to CF Monterrey in Seattle. The Sounders have a chance for redemption when Saprissa visits the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field October 20.
To be able to advance to quarterfinal status in Champions League action the Sounders will not only need to win regularly from this point forward, they will require help from other teams as Monterrey blazes a speedy trail currently with a spotless 3-0 mark and nine points.
In overall competition Sounders FC is even at 12-12-8, and tied for fifth in the Western Conference of MLS play with 33 points and a 9-9-6 record.
Seattle’s road jaunt resumes with a Saturday MLS match at Columbus. The Crew have won the last two Supporters’ Shields. Kickoff is set for 4:30 p.m. PT at Crew Stadium.
Saturday’s match at Columbus not only marks competition between Seattle’s Sigi Schmid and the team he successfully coached just before moving on to the Emerald City, it provides a preview of the upcoming Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final slated for October 5 at Qwest Field.