Posted on March 8, 2012 at 7:13 AM
Thursday, Mar 8 at 8:28 AM
SEATTLE -- Brad Evans headed in a free kick early in the 63rd minute, and the Seattle Sounders edged Santos Laguna of Mexico 2-1 in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series Wednesday night.
David Estrada scored for Seattle in the 12th minute, and Herculez Gomez got the equalizer for Santos Laguna in the 61st -- only to have Evans answer less than two minutes later.
Midfielder Mauro Rosales set up Evans' winner with a free kick from the left side, 25 yards from the goal line. Rosales floated it into the penalty area, and Evans went up 8 yards in front of the net, flicking it off the right side of his head into the back left corner, just beyond the reach of goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez.
"For a number of weeks, we've gone over set pieces," Evans said. "The balls from Mauro are always consistent. We decided to go near-post there, and I had a mismatch with a guy who was a little bit smaller. I felt that if I was going to go up, that was the time. I made a good hard run, and was fortunate on a couple different bounces in there. But the most important thing is it went in."
Estrada gave Seattle the early lead with his first career goal. Fredy Montero lofted a target ball into the box from the left side, and Estrada ran in from the opposite side, heading it just inside the right post from the top of Sanchez's 6-yard box.
Gomez tied it when he took a short ball from Marc Crosas and beat Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning to the back right corner.
The second leg of the aggregate-goals series is March 14 in Torreon, Mexico.
Santos Laguna is in the middle of its season in the Mexican first division, while the Sounders won't begin Major League Soccer play until March 17.
"For us, a large part of tonight was going to be about our mentality because we weren't going to be as sharp as them," Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. "And I think our mentality showed through by scoring right after they scored, and it showed in that I thought we were a little bit better organized in the second half, and we were able to manage it to the end of the game."
Estrada, a third-year forward out of UCLA, gave Seattle the early lead with his first career goal.
Austrian native Gspurning, playing his first official game as Seattle's keeper following the retirement of U.S. World Cup star Kasey Keller, was credited with two saves.
Eddie Johnson, another U.S. national team player who joined the Sounders last month in a trade with Montreal, made his debut in the 78th minute.
"We know that this is the first leg, and we close at home," Santos Laguna coach Benjamin Galindo said. "We have to deal with that opportunity. But we're also aware that these are strong teams. We have a roster that we have to manage, we have opportunities to give them confidence, and we know we have to do that."
Schmid said the Sounders nearly had to change their lineup when four starters who live in Bellevue, east of Seattle, were caught behind a major accident on Interstate 90. The four - Gspurning, Montero, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Osvaldo Alonso - arrived about 30 minutes before kickoff, and all were in the starting lineup.