On Wednesday, the Seattle Sounders held off a frantic rally by New York City FC to tie 1-1 on aggregate and advance to the CONCACAF Champions League final for the first time in the club’s history.
In the tournament’s final, Seattle will meet Pumas UNAM of Mexico, the best club championship for clubs from Central America, North America, and the Caribbean.
After Peruvian international Raul Ruidiaz scored a 1-0 lead on 28 minutes at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, the Sounders seemed to be on their way to an easy win following leading 3-1 after last week’s home leg.
However, in the 51st minute, Uruguayan midfielder Santiago Rodriguez equalised for New York, kicking off a frantic second half as City hunted the two goals required to square the tie on aggregate.
As the reigning Major League Soccer winners launched wave after wave of attempts on Seattle’s goal, it seemed only a matter of time until City scored.
New York’s dreams of winning the semi-final were dashed by a combination of poor finishing and excellent goalkeeping from Seattle’s Swiss goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
As New York pressed for a second goal, Frei came to Seattle’s rescue three times in ten minutes.
On 63 minutes, the Sounders goalkeeper stopped a header from Thiago Martins, then pushed over the bar five minutes later when Talles Magno, a highly touted Brazilian teenager, struck on the turn from close range.
On 73 minutes, Magno missed a fantastic opportunity to put New York 2-1 up when forward Valentin Castellanos surged into space along the right side.
With the entire goal to aim at, the Argentine striker squared unselfishly for Magno in space, but the 19-year-old fired at Frei, who parried away.
Two minutes from time, Frei produced another fantastic stop, diving full stretch to tip a Castellanos header around the post.
In the CONCACAF Champions League final later this month, the Sounders will try to break Mexican teams’ almost two-decade reign of terror.
The Los Angeles Galaxy were the last Major League Soccer team to win the title in 2000.