By John Boyle Herald Writer
SEATTLE — The effort was there for the Seattle Sounders, just not the result.
A team trying to end a rough stretch, Seattle showed signs of improvement Wednesday night, but had to settle for a 1-1 draw against Sporting Kansas City in front of 46,932 at CenturyLink Field.
“I thought it was a major jump forward the way we played in Montreal,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said, referring to his team’s 4-1 loss on Saturday. “I thought our effort and our desire were very good, but unfortunately it didn’t bear the ultimate fruit for us in terms of winning the game. But we did get a point tonight and we’ve got to build upon this and move forward.”
The tie keeps Seattle (7-4-4) winless in six straight games, a stretch of three losses and three ties on the heels of a five-game winning streak. And while Schmid was happy with his team’s improved play, he was visibly upset on multiple occasions with referee Jair Marrufo.
Marrufo allowed both teams to play very physically throughout the night, which predictably led to some heated tempers late in the game. Players had to be separated in the 89th minute following a hard foul by Seattle defender Zach Scott. A few minutes later, the Sounders’ Alvaro Fernandez was shown a red card after a late and hard tackle on Kansas City’s Roger Espinoza. Fernandez’ infraction came seconds after he had been taken down on a play that did not draw a whistle. Fernandez’s foul was one that deserved punishment, but it was also one that might not have occurred had Marrufo had better control of the game.
“Obviously Alvaro committed a foul that’s for sure a yellow, it’s very probably a red, but there were other occurrences out there,” Schmid said.
Fernandez, who just had came into the game in the 80th minute, made no excuses for his actions, which will force him to miss Sunday’s game in Portland.
“I made a mistake and it won’t happen again,” Fernandez said through a translator. “… Sometimes game are like that, but you have to play with your heart but also with your head calmed down, and that didn’t happen today and that’s why I made a mistake.”
The physical nature of the game not only impacted the players on the field, it also delayed the possible return of Sounders midfielder Steve Zakuani, who has not played since breaking his leg on April 22 of last year. Zakuani was suited up and available as a substitute for the first time since that injury 14 months ago, but Schmid elected to keep the speedy winger on the sideline because of what he was seeing on the field.
“One of the reasons I didn’t come with him was because of the physical nature of the game,” Schmid said. “The referee wasn’t really protecting players and I didn’t think that was a good environment to throw him into in the first game.”
For Zakuani, getting back on the sideline was another big step in his long recovery, even if he didn’t get into the game.
“That’s the first time I’ve watched a game from the bench for over a year, so it was a good experience for me to have that taste today,” he said. “It would have been nice to get in, but I think way the game went, it was probably smart not to. I feel a lot more a part of the team with that kind of step forward, so it’s good. It’s a huge step forward.”
In addition to being physical, Wednesday’s game also featured back-and-forth action that led to several goal-scoring chances for both teams.
Kansas City went ahead early, taking a 1-0 lead in the 8th minute on a Jacob Peterson goal. After a long throw into the box was headed by a couple of players, Aurelien Collin headed a pass to Peterson, and his shot deflected off of the leg of Osvaldo Alonso, giving goalkeeper Andrew Weber no chance to make the save.
The Sounders quickly answered with a spectacular goal from an unlikely source: center back Patrick Ianni. The veteran defender came into the game with just two goals in his professional career, but in the 15th minute he earned goal No. 3 with a side volley off a Mauro Rosales free kick. The goal stunned everyone in attendance, including the man who hit it.
Asked if it was the best goal he had scored, Ianni responded, “Yeah, definitely. Best goal in practice, games — since I was born, yeah.”
Despite numerous chances for both teams, Ianni’s goal was the last of the night. Weber, who was making his first start for Seattle, helped keep the score tied with a diving save in the 72nd minute. He was replacing Bryan Meredith in the lineup after Meredith struggled in the team’s loss in Montreal. Meredith had started seven straight games prior to Wednesday in place of Michael Gspurning, who is still recovering from a hip injury.
Fredy Montero nearly gave Seattle the lead in the 88th minute when he snuck a low shot by goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, but the ball somehow stayed out of the goal before bouncing off the far post. A late goal would have been great for a team that hasn’t won in league play since May 9, but despite settling for a tie, Sounders FC believes it is ready to turn a corner.
“We’re in a streak right now that’s not a good streak,” Schmid said. “But I’m very confident that we’re close to climbing out of it.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.