SEATTLE — At least three new Sounders made good first impressions Saturday when Seattle opened the new Major League Soccer season with a 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City, the defending champion.
First, there was Chad Barrett, who knocked in the winning goal late in stoppage time. Then there was rookie Sean Okoli, who made the cross that led to the score. And finally there was goalkeeper Stefan Frei, whose shutout performance assured that single goal would translate to victory.
“I think it helps everybody,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “We had a number of (new) guys out there. … I thought they held up very well. Wins like this are always great. It helps build momentum. It helps build confidence.”
Barrett’s goal was knocked in from about a yard away. However, the opportunity actually began about 60 yards farther up the pitch when Osvaldo Alonso intercepted a pass that SKC midfielder Graham Zusi instantly regretted.
“A stupid play by me,” Zusi said. “There’s no need for me to try to split the D there and play a square ball in their half. That ball should be 20 rows into the stands.”
Instead, Alonso carried the ball to the center of the pitch before passing to midfielder Clint Dempsey, who contributed 33 minutes just three days after playing 90 with the United States national team in Cyprus.
Dempsey sent it on to Okoli, a Federal Way native in his professional debut, who launched a cross about 6 yards in front of the Kansas City goal. Sporting goalkeeper Eric Kronberg and defender Matt Besler both went for it, but neither could clear the ball out of danger. Instead, Dempsey got his head to it, knocking the ball off the crossbar before Barrett won the rebound and redirected it in.
“You don’t think, just shoot,” said Barrett, who came from New England through the re-entry process. “I just put myself in front of the goal. Clint Dempsey was unfortunate to miss the first time … and it just came right back to me.”
That marked the fifth time that the Sounders have beaten Kansas City with a goal in stoppage time.
“I just heard all about it,” Barrett said. “Wow. That’s kind of cruel and unusual against Kansas City, but I really don’t care. I’m glad to be a part of that.”
Seattle had the edge in shots (14-9) and possession (54.4 percent). And Frei saved the three shots that the defending MLS Cup champions put on target.
“(Frei) was good,” Schmid said. “I thought there were some mistakes: There was a little miscommunication once between him and Djimi (Traore) on a ball. I thought (Frei) did well in terms of challenging and cutting off some crosses. For his first game there is going to be some nerves, for sure, but I thought he did well.”
The Sounders continue their homestand at 1:30 p.m. Saturday against Frei’s former team, Toronto FC.
Before the match, the Sounders announced that they have bought out the contract of midfielder Sharlie Joseph. … The Sounders also announced the six games for which they will open the upper deck and play to the full capacity of CenturyLink Field. Those games are May 17 against San Jose, July 13 vs. Portland, the July 19 friendly against Tottenham Hotspur, Aug. 10 vs. Houston, Oct. 10 vs. Vancouver and Oct. 25 vs. Los Angeles … Seattle moved to 4-2 on opening day. Sporting Kansas City fell to 12-3-2 all-time in openers and suffered just its second opening loss in the past 12 seasons. … SKC was whistled for 25 fouls, the most ever by a Seattle opponent. The referee was Alan Kelley, a replacement as MLS plays its first weekend with its regular referees locked out in a labor dispute. “I thought he did well,” Schmid said. “I don’t have any complaints about how he handled his job. I think KC was happy about it as well. I think they are just a team that commits something like 120 more fouls than we do in the season.”