It was a nice run while it lasted but let’s be realistic: With a 1-0 home loss to Santos Laguna on Tuesday and a trip to Mexico for the second leg looming, the Seattle Sounders are on the verge of continuing MLS’s disappointment in the CONCACAF Champions League.
American forward Herculez Gomez scored early in the second half. Earlier, Seattle supporters had directed “Sounders reject!” at him. Gomez, a U.S. national team regular, was on loan with Seattle from the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2003 when the Sounders played in the second tier.
“I love it,” he said. “Being called a Sounders’ reject, being called any kind of reject digs deep and it fuels fire. I didn’t have the easiest go at the beginning of my career, so any chance I can get to redeem myself is a good chance.”
One of the most well-spoken and thoughtful U.S. national team players, Gomez also said: “I was here for maybe two months, and it was probably one of the best summers that I have ever had. Adrian [Hanauer, the general manager] and the Seattle organization are top notch, even back then when they were A League it was impressive. I’m proud of how far they have come, I’m proud of what they have established up here because it is something special around the league. I was proud to be a Seattle Sounder.
“The reaction I got from the fans was a pretty good one after the game. Fans were pretty appreciative, and they know that when the 90 minutes were over, I became a national team player again, they let me know how they felt, and that was pretty special.”
To reach the finals, a feat accomplished by an MLS club just once since 2002, the Sounders now must win in some manner in Torreon next week. In Champions League history, MLS teams are 2-23-4 in Mexico and have been outscored 83-28.
MLS has made steady progress on many fronts, but the inability to send a representative to the finals regularly or fly its flag at the FIFA Club World Cup for the first time is a significant blemish.
The Los Angeles Galaxy will take its turn tonight with a first-leg match at home against two-time defending champion Monterrey (10 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer, Galavision).