By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Sounders FC took a 3-1 win over Marathon of Honduras on Wednesday and clicked off a number of other accomplishments along the way.
* The victory completed Seattle’s unbeaten run through CONCACAF Champions League Group 4.
* The Sounders’ 4-0 record in the group stage gives them the No. 3 seeding when the tournament resumes with its quarterfinal round in early March. Their opponent will be determined by the final group-stage results today.
* The win marked a return to the pitch for goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, 16 years and 18 days since his last appearance with the USL Sounders and about a month since coming out of retirement to join these MLS Sounders.
* Mario Martinez, who began the week with complaints about his playing time, went 90 minutes and assisted Seattle’s first goal.
* The Sounders got goals from Sammy Ochoa, Steve Zakuani and David Estrada, while resting enough regulars to be at something close to full strength Sunday when they conclude their Major League Soccer regular season at Los Angeles.
* Seattle even drew just enough fans — 7,874 — to avoid setting a record-low attendance at CenturyLink Field.
“We’re happy that we’ve gone through our group play undefeated,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “It was a good situation tonight that we were able to play a lot of players. … I’m very proud and pleased and happy that we won the group and put ourselves into the top four seedings.”
Seattle already had clinched the top spot in its group before the match. However, with more favorable seeding at stake, Schmid had hoped his team could jump ahead early to break the spirit of the visiting Green Monster, which was playing for nothing but what coach Manuel Keosseian called professionalism.
Seattle made it happen by jumping two goals ahead in the first half hour.
The breakthrough came in the 23rd minute, when Martinez sent a cross into the box and Ochoa knocked it home from near the penalty spot. It was Ochoa’s fourth goal in four CCL matches.
“I think he’s been sharper at times than he was tonight … but he scored a good goal,” Schmid said. “It was a good combination — unusual to see Mario hit a right-footed cross. But (Ochoa) got in there, he got good position, and then obviously finished it well.”
Seattle added to its lead five minutes later when Zakuani cut past a defender and scored from about 10 yards.
Marathon (1-2-1) responded in the 37th minute when Tulio Vega broke free down the right side of the area. Hahnemann came off his line, but Vega squared the ball across the box where Michael Brown knocked it into the empty net.
“It was a really good run from (Vega),” Hahnemann said. “Then I came out and he shanked a cross — something, a shot, I don’t know what it was — and it went right to that guy. I’m sure it was offside.”
It was the only goal Seattle surrendered in group play that didn’t come by penalty kick. Hahnemann also recorded four saves.
“With about 15 minutes to go, I turned to (goalkeeper coach) Tommy Dutra and said, ‘That’s not a bad backup goalkeeper,’” Schmid said. “… Certainly, with Marcus now fit and in shape I don’t think there’s a team in the league with better goalkeepers than (Michael) Gspurning and Hahnemann.”
Seattle put the game away in the 76th minute, when Estrada got to a ball in front of the goal and sent it into the top of the netting.
When the tournament resumes, the Sounders will be paired with the sixth-seeded club in a two-game aggregate-score quarterfinal series.
“At least we’re away first, home second, which is a plus,” Schmid said. “And we’re avoiding for sure the big two (two-time defending champion Monterrey and last year’s runner up Santos Laguna) that have done very well the last couple of years in this competition — Monterrey especially so. All we can control is our own destiny.”