For the Seattle Sounders, prospects of a dream clash with 14-time European champions Real Madrid evaporated just as quickly as they started to feel like a reality.
The 2022 Concacaf Champions League winners – the first team from Major League Soccer to carry that honor – enjoyed a strong first half in their FIFA Club World Cup second-round tie against Egyptian powerhouse Al Ahly.
However, they were unable to convert their comfort to goals and as the second half wore on, so Al Ahly’s pressure grew, resulting in a deflected Mohamed Magdy Afsha goal in the 88th minute.
Any thoughts of facing Real Madrid went up in smoke as the Sounders had no time to respond and although a long 2023 MLS season lies ahead in which Seattle could genuinely challenge for major titles again, there’s no denying this hurts.
“It’s emotional. I think guys are just sad, disappointed,” forward Jordan Morris told reporters after the match in Tangier, Morocco. “These chances don’t come around that often, so you want to try to take full advantage of them. And we wanted to obviously win and move on.”
Morris added: “Of course, it’s incredibly frustrating to come all this way. We worked so hard during pre-season, and they’re a very good team. But to lose on a goal like that is tough.”
For the Sounders to even be in this position is a marker of where MLS now currently stands, finally competing with Liga MX for regional dominance having well and truly entered the global transfer market.
This might well be the first of many attempts at success on this stage, but that’s of no consolation to the Sounders who, having been the ones to break down the wall, are understandably disappointed to find another one in their way. Chances to play Real Madrid in a competitive match don’t come around often for teams in North America.
“It’s a missed opportunity,” said veteran goalkeeper Stefan Frei. “We’re super happy to be here and be part of this, but you don’t want to just be participants. You’ve worked hard to get to this point and we’ll most likely never have another chance to participate in something like this, so a missed opportunity.
“There are some sad faces in the locker room and some anger, disappointment. That’s all exactly where it needs to be.”
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