"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil." - Ecclesiastes 4:9 ESV
Clint Dempsey nearly did it all himself.
Shorn of his forward partner Obafemi Martins after the Nigerian's winter move to the Chinese Super League, Dempsey scored twice. His free kick opener was excellent, his second vintage Dempsey, but it wasn't enough to overcome Club America teammates Oribe Peralta and Darwin Quintero. The Sounders and Club America head into next week's second leg after a 2-2 draw in Tuesday's first leg.
Both Peralta and Quintero moved to Club America from Santos Laguna for lofty sums, figures they've yet to live up to in Liga MX. Quintero in particular has fallen off since his move in winter 2015. At his old club, the Colombian was known as the Scientist of the Goal for the creative ways he crafted goals for teammates and himself. But with the capital club, it has looked like his qualifications were falsified.
Quintero was excellent Tuesday, finishing the night with one goal on three total shots. He also had several passes to launch the America attack and moved well. Quintero and Peralta combined for four of the Liga MX side's six shots on target. They were able to play off of each other in a way Dempsey wasn't with his teammates.
The America pair was strong but didn't do it alone. The Bible passage where we get the saying "two are better than one" goes on to say that a three-stranded cord is not easily broken with the third member of the party being God. That's a bit lofty for Rubens Sambueza, but his two assists made him the real strength of the former Santos duo. His chip over the top on America's first was perfectly timed for Quintero, who torched both Sounders center backs on the way to a quick response for Dempsey's free kick.
Goal AME No. 24 Oribe PERALTA @Oribe Peralta | @SoundersFC @ClubAmerica #SCCL https://t.co/Gp3lwwlNRy
— CONCACAF (@CONCACAF) February 24, 2016
Sambueza was momentarily silenced by new Sounders left back Joevin Jones in the second half, but got his revenge with the ball he sent onto Peralta's head for the equalizer. The former Torreon pals plus the precision of the Argentine was too much for the Sounders to handle.
The draw isn't a horrible result for the MLS side. The match was everything the CONCACAF Champions League should be. It was a game between two sides that are unquestionably among the region's best. It was played in front of a large, exuberant and engaged crowd.
The home-field advantage for Las Aguilas at the Estadio Azteca likely won't be quite as strong. The Azteca is undergoing renovations, and America is a team that was playing so poorly at home earlier this year that it elected to wear its change kit at home to get rid of the bad luck that was finding them in Coyocan.
The hex has since been broken, and the Sounders task will not be an easy one. If Dempsey can get some help, be it from young forward Jordan Morris, Paraguayan Nelson Valdez, or perhaps a larger contribution from assist-giver Andreas Ivanschitz, Seattle could get the away victory they need.
It will take more from his teammates, though. As Peralta and Quintero showed Tuesday, an attacking duo firing on all cylinders can be tough to top.
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