SEATTLE — The goal was worthy of SportsCenter.
The victory was worthy of the history books.
Sounders FC became the first MLS team to beat a Mexican opponent in the CONCACAF Champions League knockout rounds, earning a comeback for the ages against Tigres UANL in front of 20,520 crazed fans at CenturyLink Field.
Seattle won Tuesday’s home leg 3-1 to claim the two-game quarterfinal, 3-2 on aggregate, after trailing at one point in the series by two goals.
MLS teams had gone 0 for 5 against Mexican teams in the CCL quarterfinals and beyond since the tournament changed formats in 2008-09.
“We wanted to win. We felt we could win,” said coach Sigi Schmid, whose team will face the winner between the Houston Dynamo and Mexico’s Santos Laguna in the semifinal next month.
“I’m very proud of what the guys accomplished, and to be the first is always a good thing.”
Each of Seattle’s three goals was spectacular on this night to remember, but the triumph was highlighted by a once-in-a-lifetime strike by defender Djimi Traore in the 60th minute. The sensational left-footed blast from about 35 yards away — which sent the social-media world aflutter and ranked No. 2 on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays — tied the series at two goals apiece.
Forward Eddie Johnson put the finishing touches on the comeback in the 75th minute, sneaking in a tight-angled shot past goalkeeper Jorge Diaz De Leon.
But Traore’s goal still had teammates buzzing.
“Amazing,” said goalkeeper Michael Gspurning. “Djimi told me the last time he scored like this was with his youth team ... but he was closer.”
Seattle’s first goal in the comeback came from an unlikely source, rookie defender DeAndre Yedlin, but even he conceded his superb long-range strike in the 54th minute didn’t compare to Traore’s.
“Oh, man, that was amazing,” said Yedlin, a 19-year-old Seattle native. “It topped mine, so I’m not too happy about that. (laughs)”
Traore, a veteran newcomer, said simply: “If you don’t try, you never score that kind of goal, so that’s what I did.”
Asked if he thought it was going in as soon as he hit it, Traore added with a smile: “No. I would like to see it again.”
The Sounders’ comeback was aided just before halftime when Tigres midfielder Manuel Viniegra was ejected upon receiving a second yellow card in the game. The Tigres, who are the top-ranked team in Liga MX, held a 2-0 series lead at that point, boosted by an early 23rd-minute goal by forward Elias Hernandez.
Tigres’ coach Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti, however, opted to leave many of the team’s starters at home for the game, which hampered a late comeback effort and put his team on the wrong side of history.