By Michael Lewis
SEATTLE -- The Seattle Sounders overcame a two-goal aggregate deficit by striking for three goals within a 22-minute span in the second half to reach the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals on Tuesday night.
DeAndre Yedlin, Djimi Traore and Eddie Johnson scored goals to lift the Sounders to a 3-1 victory over 10-man Tigres in the second leg of the quarterfinal series at CenturyLink Field to win the series, 3-2 on aggregate.
Seattle became the first U.S. team to book a spot in the final four, with the fates of the LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo to be determined in their quarterfinal series on Wednesday night.
The Sounders will play the winner of the Santos Laguna-Houston pairing.
The complexion of the match started to change just before halftime. Tigres, enjoying a 1-0 lead in the game and a 2-0 aggregate advantage at the time, lost two key players.
Captain Arturo Rivas suffered an injury and was replaced by Jorge Espericueta.
Midfielder Manuel Viniegra saw red in the 45th minute for kicking the ball away following a foul and received a second booking as a result. That forced the Mexican club to play the remainder of the match a man down. Tigres paid dearly for it in the second half.
Seattle pulled one back in the 53rd minute to tie the match at 1-1 and close the aggregate gap to 2-1 as Yedlin scored his first professional goal, blasting home a 25-yard shot into the right corner of the net past goalkeeper Jorge Diaz de Leon.
The host equalized as Traore launched a 28-yard blast for his first Champions League goal in the 60th minute.
Johnson capped the scoring with a brilliant effort in the 75th minute. Barely a step from the end line on the left side, the U.S. international fired home a left-footed shot from a difficult angle into the far post for the series winner.
Two minutes into stoppage time, Alan Pulido had an opportunity to give Tigres the series win, with his shot barely missing the left post.
Tigres coach Ricardo Ferretti made a major tactical decision prior to the match, bringing essentially a B team to Seattle. The Mexican club used only two starters from last week's 1-0 first-leg win in the Starting XI -- midfielder Alberto Acosta and forward Elias Hernandez. Tigres brought only 16 players when it could have had as many as 18 players at its disposal.
UANL came very close to taking a 1-0 advantage in the 17th minute. Pulido, the opening leg's goal-scoring hero, managed to stay onside and fired a shot on which goalkeeper Michael Gspurning made a finger-tip save.
As it turned out, the two Tigres starters from last week combined for the first goal in the 23rd minute. Former U.S. international left back Jonathan Bornstein sent a pass down the left side to Acosta, who beat Yedlin and found an unmarked Hernandez in the penalty area. Hernandez, who had shaken off his man, defender Leo Gonzalez, beat Gspurning from three yards to boost the visitors into a 1-0 lead.
Had it not been for a spectacular save by Gspurning on Manuel Viniegra's bullet of a shot, Tigres would have doubled the lead in the 30th minute.
Johnson was involved in several Seattle scoring opportunities in the first half. Sammy Ochoa snapped a header off a Johnson right-wing cross wide left of the net in the 16th minute. Johnson had two golden scoring opportunities barely a minute apart. His 12-yard shot sailed wide left in the 36th minute and his shot from the left flank missed the far post a minute later.