SEATTLE — Clint Dempsey’s flashy goal-scoring debut to 2016 could not overcome a pair of defensive breakdowns by the Seattle Sounders.
As a result, the Sounders now face the unenviable task of likely needing to pull out a victory at Azteca Stadium to advance in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Dempsey scored in both halves, including a curling free kick from more than 25 yards just before halftime, but the Sounders settled for a 2-2 draw with Club America in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday night.
Dempsey scored in the 44th and 52nd minutes, the second goal a header past Club America goalkeeper Hugo Gonzalez off a corner kick from Andreas Ivanschitz. But Seattle’s backline cracked under Club America’s pressure and the defending CCL champions will take the advantage of two road goals back to Mexico City for the second-game of the aggregate-goal series.
"We get a win, we move on. That’s got to be our focus," Seattle defender Brad Evans said. "We have to play a smart, concise game when we head down there. We can’t be like chickens with our heads cut off and think we have to get a goal in the first 5 minutes."
Darwin Quintero beat an attempted offside trap to score in the 45th minute just moments after Dempsey’s first goal, and Oribe Peralta scored in the 70th minute to get two crucial road goals for the defending CCL champions. Quintero’s goal was a deflating blow just moments after Seattle was ecstatic while celebrating Dempsey’s bending free kick that found the top corner of the goal.
"There is still another 90 minutes to play against a good team that manages the ball well," Club America coach Ignacio Ambriz said.
The first match of the season for Seattle was open and entertaining and featured a Club America lineup with about half of its normal starters. Club America is already seven games into the Liga MX Clausura season and brought an enthusiastic supporters group that was part of the 42,836 in attendance, giving an international flair to the matchup.
It was also the Seattle debut of forward Jordan Morris, who nearly got his pro career off to a rousing start. Morris’ deflected header in the 12th minute was barely saved off the goal line by Gonzalez. Morris was mostly quiet otherwise in his first pro appearance.
Dempsey earned the foul that led to his free-kick goal from outside of 25 yards. Rather than having the left-footed Ivanschitz take the shot, Dempsey curled his drive wide and then back inside and past Gonzalez’s diving attempt.
The lead lasted less than 2 minutes. Quintero had threatened throughout the half and finally beat Seattle’s defence, collecting a long pass from Rubens Sambueza and beating Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei. Quintero had gotten the best of Seattle in the past, scoring the deciding goal for Santos Laguna in the 2013 Champions League semifinal victory over the Sounders.
Dempsey regained Seattle’s advantage when he leaped above Miguel Samudio and directed his header past Gonzalez in the 52nd minute, but after a lengthy buildup Peralta slipped past Chad Marshall and Brad Evans to redirect Sambueza’s cross past Frei.
"We always talk about you’ve got to mark players in the box. Space isn’t going to score on you, players are," Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. "We were marking space on that particular cross."