MLS Soccer

Sounders fall apart in second half

TORREON, MEXICO – Santos Laguna was the top-scoring team in the group stage of CONCACAF Champions League.

And now that team will almost certainly share the same honor for the quarterfinals, after erupting for four second-half goals on the way to a 6-1 win over Sounders FC on Wednesday.

The result gave Santos a 7-3 win in the aggregate-score series, and sends the Mexican side through to the semifinals against Toronto FC.

“Defensively, I thought we had a poor game today,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “I think they won the duels. They won a lot of the duels. When they win all the 50/50 balls, it’s tough for your team to gain momentum. From that standpoint it was disappointing. Like I say, it’s easy to point fingers and say this guy or that guy didn’t have a good game. Us as a coaching staff, we need to look at it and we need to see what we need to do to avoid these kind of things in the future.”

The result eliminates Seattle from this Champions League competition, although the club already has qualified for the 2012-13 CCL.

The Sounders arrived in Mexico with a 2-1 lead, following their series-opening win the week before at CenturyLink Field.

That advantage disintegrated quickly as Santos’ Christian Suarez scored in the eighth minute, and Oribe Peralta scored in the 10th.

The Sounders countered in the 37th minute, when Fredy Montero put a cross onto the head of Alvaro Fernandez, and he knocked it down and past Santos goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez.

With that goal, the Sounders drew even in aggregate-score and in the tiebreaker of away goals.

And that’s how things remained as the clubs came out for the second half.

“We were very confident in the second half to start,” midfielder and captain Mauro Rosales said. “But after five minutes they scored. … It was a tough loss. They were a better team in the second half. We could have scored another goal; I think we had the chances. It was a pity that the score was that bad because I don’t think we deserved that. But that’s OK. That’s futbol.”

Herculez Gomez put Santos ahead to stay with a goal in the 49th minute, and further ahead with another in the 68th. Suarez scored again in the 76th minute, and Carlos Ochoa set the final score with another in the 81st minute.

It ended as the worst defeat and most goals allowed in any nonfriendly competition played by Sounders FC.

“Santos was the better team today, but I don’t believe that we deserved this result tonight,” goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said. “I don’t care about the result or anything after it’s over. What I care about and what the team cares about is Saturday and our opening game of the (Major League Soccer) season. … We have to keep our head up.”

The Sounders will fly home today and turn their attention to the start of their fourth MLS season at 7 p.m. Saturday, when Toronto visits CenturyLink Field.

“Certainly there are probably some changes we need to make in our team because of fatigue and maybe performance, as well,” Schmid said. “It’s just a matter of us showing our character right now and standing back up. It’s easy to go hide after a loss like this.”

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Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 twitter/donruiztnt