Saturday dawned beautifully in Seattle, almost 60 degrees and sunny. It’s one of the few really nice days we’ve had recently in the Pacific Northwest.
This is ironic since the Sounders were playing in Seattle weather in Philadelphia, crappy cold rainy windy weather that looked awful to play in. To be honest, the match started off dry but very quickly the heavens opened and it became a deluge.
The Union appeared the team most acclimatized to the monsoon conditions though, attacking strongly and often from the opening. In fairness, both teams played well and seemed to be evenly matched throughout the match. The Philadelphia pressure paid off as the Union took advantage of a penalty kick in the 32nd minute to take the lead 1-0.
The penalty came as Sounder midfielder Osvaldo Alonso took down Union midfielder Kyle Nakazawa just outside the box at the top right of the penalty area. Alonso got his first yellow card of the season for his hard tackle on Nakazawa and Union forward Carlos Ruiz lined up to take the kick.
Ruiz hit a curling kick from just outside the box that snuck inside the left post. Sounder keeper Kasey Keller got a hand on the shot but couldn’t keep the ball out of the net.
Philly has a formula for winning 1-0 matches this season and came out of the locker room working towards their 4th shutout of the young season. They keep attacking, spreading the field and keep their opponents on their heels.
It almost paid off for the Union too as both Amobi Okugo and former Sounder Sebastien Le Toux had great shots early in the second half get blocked by Keller.
Needing a spark, Seattle manager Sigi Schmid went to his bench and replaced O’Brian White and Leo Gonzales with Nate Jaqua and Fredy Montero, at 66 minutes. At 77 minutes, Schmid pulled Erik Friberg, who had his worst match since joining Seattle, with Alvaro Fernandez. The personnel changes allowed Schmid to change up the formation to 3-5-2. The change allowed the Sounders to open up their attacks more.
The moves paid off. The replacements opened up the field in the foul weather. Each player quickly had great opportunities but couldn’t convert. They were following what seems to be a season long trend for the Sounders of creating great opportunities but not cashing in on them with goals.
The Sounders finally equalized in stoppage time as Montero sent a high cross into the front of the net from the top left side of the box. He was cleaning up a corner that was delivered by Mauro Rosales. The corner came into the box, was flicked on by Jaqua to Montero. Montero sent the ball to Steve Zakuani who passed it back to Montero. Fredy sent the cross in and Fernandez went up in traffic, out jumping everyone to head the ball off the right post and into the net.
A match that appeared to be another 1-0 loss for Seattle turned into a victory, albeit only a draw, for a team that has been struggling to convert opportunities into goals when they need it the most.
It’s early in the season but a win like this, in this kind of fashion, for a team that is as young as this in a lot of positions, could go a long ways towards getting the Sounders on the winning track. Every team needs a few friendly bounces. Seattle hasn’t had too many of those so far. Hopefully this will be the beginning of an upswing in the Sounder fortunes.
The Sounders have played hard and well so far this season but the chances they’ve created haven’t paid off like they should. Its nice seeing them finally cashing in on the opportunities.
Man of the Match:
I really would like to give this to Fredy Montero or Fernandez for combining on the goal, but for my money, Kasey Keller gets the title again. His almost block of Ruiz’s penalty was impressive. Saving the Le Toux and Okugo shots after the half not only kept his team in it; they showed that last week’s match and save of the week against Chaves’ shot was not a one time flash of the old days.
Keller is having an incredible season on his proclaimed last roll before retiring. If he keeps playing like this, look for Drew Carey and the other Sounders owners to tell Keller that whatever his price, whatever it may be, is right.
Seattle plays in Colorado next, on the 22nd before returning home to the Emerald City to face Toronto FC.
Photo credit: Greg Carraccio