Joao Paulo opened his scoring account for Seattle Sounders FC less than six minutes into his debut Thursday night, but his new club coughed up a two-goal lead and settled for a 2-2 tie with C.D. Olimpia in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League round of 16.
The Brazilian midfielder — who the Sounders acquired less than three weeks ago from Botafogo — emerged unmarked to head Jordan Morris’ perfectly-weighted cross from the left edge of the penalty area past goalkeeper Edrick Menjivar to give Seattle the lead.
Morris doubled the advantage against the run of play in the 54th minute, though the raucous crowd at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula, Honduras came to life after the hosts cut the deficit in half off Yustin Arboleda’s 63rd minute tally. Arboleda scored again off a header in the 81st minute to help Olimpia complete the comeback.
The Sounders — who on Thursday night played their first competitive game since beating Toronto FC 3-1 in the 2019 MLS Cup — will host the second leg at CenturyLink Field Feb. 27 and with a chance to advance to the quarterfinals.
The first leg featured 36 shots — 21 for Olimpia and 15 for Seattle — as both sides went at each other during a back and forth affair in hot, humid weather.
Tempers flared on occasion, too.
Seatle Sounders' Joao Paulo Mior (L) and Jordan Morris (R) celebrate after scoring a goal against Olimpia during their CONCACAF Champions League match at Olimpico Metropolinato Stadium in San Pedro Sula, Honduras on February 20, 2020. (Photo by ORLANDO SIERRA / AFP) (Photo by ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP via Getty Images) ** OUTS - ELSENT, FPG, CM - OUTS * NM, PH, VA if sourced by CT, LA or MoD **
Match referee Juan Calderon of Costa Rica had already issued one caution when he handed out another five between the 23rd and 25th minutes for a pair of fouls and protest from both technical areas.
The fracas started when Seattle defender Xavier Arreaga was yellow carded for fouling Jerry Bengston from behind near the right flank. Calderon then brandished yellow cards for dissent to both Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer and Olimpia manager Pedro Troglio.
On the ensuing freekick, Arboleda collided feet first into Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei’s chest while trying to reach Johnny Leveron’s cross. Calderon then cautioned Arboleda and Frei, but not before players from both teams confronted one another in Seattle’s penalty area, with Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan and the match officials eventually helping mediate the scuffle.
— Joga Bonito (@Jasoninho10) February 21, 2020
After play resumed, Roldan, who combined with Joao Paulo in central midfield, rolled a shot wide of the left post in the 36th minute.
Olimpia came out of halftime on the front foot, with Frei diving right to parry Bengston’s header from an Edwin Rodriguez cross (49th minute) and Roldan rising to clear Ever Alvarado’s flick off the line (50th minute) on the ensuing corner.
The Sounders turned the tide in short order by doubling their lead.
Against the run of play, Joevin Jones emerged free near the right edge of Olimpia’s penalty area and fired a hard, low drive at goal that Menjivar dropped low to block. Morris then slammed the rebound into open net to make it 2-0.
Olimpia was rewarded for its persistence in front of goal moments later as Arboleda poked a shot past Frei from a tight angle following a turnover deep in Seattle’s end of the field.
Arboleda’s brace came 18 minutes later and brought about thunderous applause from the mostly pro-Olimpia fans in attendance.