Seattle Sounders FC

Seattle Sounders: Schmetzer full of praise after Lodeiro inspires CCL final 1st leg comeback

Chris Smith
Lodeiro's brace kept Seattle alive.
Lodeiro's brace kept Seattle alive. / Abbie Parr-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Sounders boss Brian Schmetzer praised the spirit of his players after they battled from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 in the first leg of their Concacaf Champions League final against Pumas.

Goals from Juan Ignacio Dinenno put Pumas into a commanding position in Mexico City - one Liga MX sides don't usually give up against MLS opposition.

But the Sounders - looking to become Major League Soccer's first CCL winners since the competition's 2008 rebrand - kept their heads and fought back. Two penalties from Nico Lodeiro leveled the score: the first scored under immense pressure from Pumas goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera, the second all the way in the ninth minute of second-half stoppage time.

Seattle now head back to Lumen Field arguably as the favorites with home advantage in the second leg, while Wednesday night's battle has left them scarred but determined.

“What I always appreciate about our team is that we never quit,” Schmetzer said after the match. “The culture of the club has always been there…What we will try and do is take what we learned from this game and then apply it to the game in Seattle. Anything can happen in a final. Anything can happen in Concacaf.”

With the weight of history against the Sounders as an MLS team, the home crowd vociferously against him and Pumas players trying their best to get in his head, Lodeiro showed remarkable composure to put away both his spot-kicks. Ice in his veins.

“You don’t understand how much pressure there was,” said Schmetzer. “Nico did what he had to do. He’s a great player and he’s got a lot of mental toughness.”

Lodeiro himself added: “I have to be prepared. We prepare for this. I have to have peace of mind and confidence that I’m going to be able to deliver. That’s what the team is expecting, and that’s what we are preparing ourselves to do all the time. Having that confidence that we’re going to execute helps us to be successful when taking PKs.”

Of course, it's not done yet. Major League Soccer has only ever offered up four losing finalists in this competition and while Pumas have been average at best in Liga MX play, so have the Sounders domestically and they were given a real working by their hosts on Wednesday.

For Seattle to make history and lift the Concacaf Champions League trophy next week, it's going to take the performance of a lifetime.

“I wouldn't say that our team played up to our potential this evening,” Schmetzer observed. “And it's not just one player. I mean, I could look around the whole team, and could the whole team have played better? Yes, I believe they could. And I believe we will.”