SEATTLE – Winless in MLS play since May 9, the Sounders were forced to settle for a hard fought 1-1 draw with visiting Sporting Kansas City and remain stuck in mid table in the Western Conference standings.
After losing 4-1 last Saturday away to Montreal, coach Sigi Schmid made a few changes to the starting eleven, most noticeably putting Andrew Weber in goal to replace Bryan Meredith who has been in regular service since Michael Gspurning injured himself in week three. “We decided that Meredith needed to see the game from the outside. I think he needs to come back from this, train for it, it will show his character,” Schmid commented after the match.
Kansas City gained the early lead in the 8’ after midfielder Jacob Peterson neatly got the ball under control from a header, put the perfect bounce on it and sliced the shot into the deep left corner of the net. Peterson had extra to celebrate since this was also his first MLS goal.
But the Sounders quickly answered in the 15’, when defender Patrick Ianni converted a Mauro Rosales free kick by pulling a move more frequently seen in the NHL, hip checking the ball past KC keeper Jimmy Nielsen. Not to be one upped, this was also Ianni’s first MLS goal.
Kansas City proved dangerous throughout the first half, with shots on goal in the 19’ and the 23’ both from Soony Saad. The first took paint off the cross bar and the second had just a little too much on it, landing over the back of the net.
Seattle midfielder Alex Caskey received treatment on field in the 22’ after a heading duel that left him bleeding from the forehead. One fresh shirt and head wrap later he was able to continue play and drilled a shot from twenty five yards out in the 38’ but Nielsen was able to punch it safely away. Eddie Johnson went for the turn on the deflection but got hung up in the KC defense. Johnson missed a crack opportunity in the in the 30’ after threading the ball thru three KC defenders but the ball curled to the left of target.
The sides were well matched in the first half, dead even on possession and shots on goal. Physical play characterized the match and the challenges escalated, testing referee Jair Marrufo’s apparent decision to allow play to continue. The numbers of cards issued were limited in comparison to the number and severity of fouls, five bookings (one for time wasting) versus twenty eight incidents combined. Teal Bunbury absolutely plowed into Seattle defender Jeff Parke in the 78’, shoulder down, sending Parke up and over end but still Marrufo failed to pull out the book.
After the break, both sides came out ready to fight for the three points and play resumed with the same intensity exhibited in the opening forty five minutes. Again, it was a head to head match up on possession and shots on goal.
Kansas City made two subs early in the second half, Graham Zusi for Peterson Joseph in the 50’ and Kei Kamara on for Jacob Peterson in the 65’. KC defender Chance Meyers almost got the better of Weber in the 72’, on a header from a free kick but the Sounders keeper was able to make the clearance.
Schmid made his first substitution in the 72’ replacing Brad Evans in midfield with Andy Rose. He made his final two changes in the 81’ bringing on Sammy Ochoa for Johnson and Alvaro Fernandez for Rosales. Sporting made their final substitution in the 86’, C.J. Sapong coming on for Soony Saad.
The Sounders were unbelievably robbed in the 89’ when Fredy Montero’s shot was first deflected off Nielsen into the left post and looking like the ball would fall over the line it somehow dropped just a hair shy, leaving the home crowd gasping. Brewing tensions between the two sides boiled over, sending Marrufo running to diffuse a bout of onfield pushing and shoving.
Fernandez was sent packing in the 91’ after a horrendous challenge on Roger Espinoza, twisting the Kansas City midfielder’s right knee like a pipe wrench on the way down. Marrufo immediately pulled the red card.
The home crowd of over 38,000 booed at the final whistle, obviously displeased with many of the refereeing decisions and questionable challenges allowed to Kansas City. “I’m happy with the fact we were able to come back from being one down. I thought it was a major jump forward from the way we played in Montreal. Our heart, our desire was there,” Schmid added after the match.
Seattle are in the middle of a long stretch of seven games in twenty two days and this was one of only two home fixtures until August. They next play Portland away on June 24, quickly followed by a U.S. Open Cup qualifier at San Jose on June 26.