Club America is not a bear that likes to be poked.
Three times the Seattle Sounders moved ahead in their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series, and three times Club America answered — quickly.
As a result, the Mexican giants move on to the CCL semifinals, while the Sounders are out of the competition and free to concentrate on their approaching MLS season.
Club America clinched the series Wednesday with a come-from-behind 3-1 win at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. That combined with their come-from-behind-twice 2-2 draw in the first leg in Seattle to send the defending CCL champions through on aggregate, 5-3.
“Through 41 minutes we did what we wanted to do,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “We looked for situations to counter. We knew we’d have to dodge a few bullets and we’d have to defend well, and I thought we did that. But we had to give ourselves that opportunity by going in at halftime with the lead.”
Over the two matches, Seattle held separate one-goal leads for one minute, 18 minutes and one minute.
That final brief lead emerged in the 41st minute Wednesday, when Nelson Valdez pressured a ball in front of the America goal before it crossed the line on what was eventually ruled an own goal by Pablo Aguilar.
That seemed a huge opportunity for the Sounders, who would have advanced on a victory by any score.
However, just as had been the case in the opening leg, the Sounders couldn’t preserve the lead to halftime.
Club America equalized in the 42nd minute on a goal by Carlos Quintero. Then they jumped ahead in first-half stoppage time on a goal by Oribe Peralta. Both were assisted by Rubens Sambueza, who Schmid called “the player who probably hurt us the most.”
“Obviously it’s still fresh in our head from last game that we don’t want to concede,” goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. “But yet we concede again right away — two goals in a matter of a few minutes, and that obviously completely changes the game. Instead of going to halftime up 1-0, we’re down 2-1 and it’s demoralizing.”
About five minutes into the second half, Andres Andrade got what would prove to be the final goal.
Club America improved to 7-1 over its last eight CCL matches at Azteca with a combined score of 25-3. The Sounders fell to 4-8-4 on the road all-time in the competition.
Seattle went with the same lineup that had started the first leg last week. Andreas Ivanschitz, Jordan Morris and Erik Friberg were all subbed off between the 70th and 76th minutes.
The Sounders will travel back home Thursday, then resume training Friday. They open their eighth MLS season at 4 p.m. Sunday against Sporting Kansas City at CenturyLink Field.
“We have to travel and take care of our bodies,” said midfielder Cristian Roldan, who played the final 20 minutes. “I think that’s the most important thing, and we’ll be ready by Sunday.”