The Seattle Sounders were rightfully massive underdogs against Monterrey tonight. Only one MLS team has ever won a competitive game in Mexico, that being FC Dallas' win against Pumas UNAM a week ago, and skeptics were quick to point out that the Toros started a first-choice side against a team comprised largely of reserves. That wasn't the case tonight; in fact it was quite the opposite. Monterrey's lineup was very close to full-strength while the Sounders started a team that looked for all the world to be one almost conceding at the very least two points to the home side.
But at the half, things weren't going as expected for Rayados; a lovely full-team counter attack was finished by Alvaro Fernandez in the 38th minute to give Seattle a 1-0 cushion going into the half. While the opening frame was more or less evenly matched, the second was quite another matter; Monterrey set siege to the Sounders final third and for the remainder of the evening it was a bunker-down and hang-on situation for Seattle. When all was said, Monterrey claimed 64% of the possession. Monterrey's four shots on goal equaled the number Seattle was able to manage in total, with the Sounders putting only one shot on target. Thankfully for Seattle, that shot managed to find the back of the net.
Monterrey had plenty of chances and the Sounders were the beneficiary of a whole lot of luck. Aldo de Nigris managed to claim the ball off of Terry Boss and square to Humberto Suazo who mystifyingly managed to put the ball wide. On numerous occasions Rayados players received the ball in threatening positions only to waste the chance. To be quite clear, Monterrey was absolutely dreadful. But the Sounders wonderfully executed tactical stifling was at least partially to blame for their frustration.
This may well be the most significant win by an MLS team in the league's history. Monterrey is not a team without their shortcomings, but their attacking play-spearheaded by de Nigris and Suazo-is not amongst them and to keep a clean sheet on their own pitch is an unquestionably outstanding accomplishment. It might not have been the most attractive performance in soccer history, but the result was just about the most beautiful thing a Sounders fan could hope to see. With the win it would take a fairly shocking collapse to prevent the Sounders from advancing to the knockout stage. It's a massive win for MLS as well; not that FC Dallas' accomplishment needs to be validated, but those that would seek to diminish it in an effort to diminish the league itself aren't going to have a whole lot of ammunition after this evening.
The MLS elite belong on this stage, and tonight was yet another reminder for the rest of the region. And it was also a reminder that despite their occasional hiccups, Seattle is amongst the elite. By all appearances, Monterrey take the defense of their CCL title quite seriously. And despite that, the Sounders waltzed into town, put out a reserve side, and waltzed right back out with three points. This a pretty fun time to be a fan of MLS and it's even better to be a fan of the Sounders.