Suazo (C) 45
Fernandez (C) 81
Comunicaciones: Estrada; Miranda, Herrera, Acevedo; Guthrie, Gomez, Jorge Rodas (Perez 77); Julio Rodas (Fernandez 70), Valencia (Calderon 56), Noez, Suazo.
Seattle: Burpo; Barton, McNiel, Jenkins, Morrill; Stoddard (Cowmey 74), Kinoshita, Gelvezon (Daligcon 46), Hattrup; Fry, Adair.
Cautions: Guthrie (C)
Shots: Com 29, Sea 12
Saves: Estrada 5, Burpo 8
Corners: Com 3, Sea 3
Fouls: Com 14, Sea 7
Offside: Com 1, Sea 3
The opening day in the quadrangular final round of the 1996 CONCACAF Champions Cup saw the Seattle Sounders lose 2-0 to Comunicaciones, playing in their home country, Guatemala. In the day's earlier match, Necaxa and Cruz Azul, both from the Mexican first division, played to a 1-1 tie. This tournament is being played a year later than it should have been, as it is for champions and runners up from the 1995 or 1995/96 seasons. (The preliminary rounds of the 1997 CONCACAF Champions Cup have already begun and the 1997 final will be held later this summer.)
The match was broadcast live on KRPM 1090 AM in Seattle. Kickoff was announced as 6 pm Seattle time, but due to a time zone miscalculation the game started an hour later. This match report is based on the radio broadcast.
Seattle fielded just four regular starters, two of them rookie defenders. Three starters were in the A-League All-Star game the same day in Rochester, New York (forward Mike Gailey, midfielder Geoff Aunger and player/coach Neil Megson). Three starters just joined the injured list (midfielder David Hoggan, defender Mark Watson and sweeper Bernie James). And backup goalkeeper Preston Burpo, who had not played a minute, was in goal the whole match while regular Dusty Hudock sat on the bench. With Gailey, Aunger and Hoggan missing, the Sounders were playing without their top three offensive weapons. In an interview taped earlier in the week and aired at halftime, head coach Neil Megson said that he instructed assistant coach Chance Fry to give playing time to the reserves in order to get them match fit for the remainder of the A-League season.
Surprise players for the Sounders included Burpo getting his first appearance, Fry starting after being on the injured list since the season opener on April 12, Nate Daligcon returning to action after missing 18 games injured, Doug Morrill returning to the Sounders after having last played for them in 1996, and last year's rookie John Cowmey making his first appearance this year. Morrill is probably with the Sounders for this tournament only.
Although Comunicaciones outshot Seattle 29-12, Seattle had nearly as many good chances as their opponents. Seattle played a defensive style, letting Comunicaciones shoot all they wanted from 30 yards or more, but trying to prevent shots in or near the penalty area. And shoot they did.
Paul Gelvezon had the early chances for Seattle. He took a pass from Chugger Adair in the area and was taken down, but no penalty was given. A later shot by Gelvezon was deflected on goal by a Comunicaciones defender, forcing a save by keeper Edgar Estrada.
Nicolas Suazo took Comunicaciones' first good shot, missing an 18-yarder by a foot. Comunicaciones nearly scored midway in the half when a shot was rejected by the crossbar. Rigoberto Gomez just missed the far post with a shot. Jorge Rodas, formerly in the US' MLS league, tried a 25-yarder that was just wide, then a minute later forced a save by Sounder keeper Preston Burpo.
Seattle defender Bryan McNiel found Peter Hattrup just inside the area, but Hattrup's shot just missed the far post.
45' Suazo (Jorge Rodas). With 30 seconds left in the half, Jorge Rodas fed Suazo with a ball behind the defense and "Nico-gol" Suazo dribbled in, juked Burpo with a feint and scored to send Comunicaciones into halftime with a 1-0 lead.
Comunicaciones had the early shots in the second half. Suazo just missed with a left-footed shot. Noez got free with the ball behind the defense, forcing a good save from Burpo. A Comunicaciones free kick was headed for the upper corner, but Burpo pushed it out for a corner kick.
Seattle had their chances to level the score. Hattrup's 17-yard shot was well saved by Estrada. Adair's shot and attempted put back of the rebound were both blocked by Estrada. Adair got up to win an air ball, but sent it over the bar.
81' Fernandez (Noez). Noez fed Fernandez on a near post run and Fernandez shot under Burpo for the insurance goal and a 2-0 lead. Fernandez had come on in the second half for Julio Rodas, twin brother of Jorge Rodas.
In the final minute Adair had one more chance to put Seattle on the board with a header from a corner kick, but sent it over.
Thursday, July 17 will see the round robin continue with Necaxa-Seattle and Comunicaciones-Cruz Azul. The Seattle game will again be aired on KRPM 1090 AM, live at 5 pm Seattle time.
The 1996 Champions Cup will finish on Sunday, July 20 with Cruz Azul-Seattle and Comunicaciones-Necaxa. The Seattle game will be aired on KRPM 1090 AM, live at 9 am Seattle time. The Cup winner will get a berth in the quarterfinals of the 1997 CONCACAF Champions Cup later this summer.