KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Seattle coach Sigi Schmid had seen this drama play out three times before, so he made a bold prediction when he subbed in Mauro Rosales with a few minutes left in a scoreless game.
“I said, ‘We’re going to get one here,’” Schmid recalled. “And we did.”
Just in time, too.
Djimi Traore was in the right spot late in stoppage time Wednesday night, taking advantage of a breakdown by the Sporting Kansas City defense to score the game’s only goal and give the Seattle Sounders another memorable victory over the reigning Eastern Conference champs.
Seattle improved to 6-1-1 against Sporting KC, with four of those wins coming on goals in stoppage time. Seven of the Sounders’ 11 goals have come in the final 15 minutes of games.
“It’s sort of hard to figure out sometimes,” Schmid said with a shrug. “You just have a team you can’t get past and another team you have success against.”
The teams had played a defensive-minded game most of the night, but Seattle finally got an opportunity when Zach Scott threw the ball in with about four minutes gone in stoppage time.
The ball was deflected toward the net — the Sounders’ Brad Evans was there to contest it — and Sporting KC defender Aurelien Collin whiffed trying to clear it. The ball bounced to the feet of Traore, who slammed it into the back of the net with his off foot.
“It’s a big victory for us,” Traore said. “We worked hard during the game, you know. It was hard for us in the first half because sporting Kansas City was in good position, but in the second half we came back and worked hard and scored that goal.
“I don’t know if we deserved it,” he added, “but it was good, because we needed those points.”
The Sounders (2-3-3) lost five of their first seven games across all competitions, but are 2-0-3 in their last five, slowly climbing back into the Western Conference race.
Sporting KC (5-4-2) lost for the third time in its last four games.
“For as well as we played in the first half, that’s how bad we played in the second half,” Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi said. “It’s not anything they did. They didn’t really have too many sniffs at our goal. Passing was off. Touches were off. Just a poor second half.”
The goal also spoiled the return of Sporting KC’s Kei Kamara, who rejoined his MLS club as a second-half substitute after spending the first half of the season on loan to Norwich City.
Kamara warmed up in the dressing room before coming onto the field to the roar of a sellout crowd of more than 18,000. But even though he played 11 games with his English Premier League club, it was evident that it will take a while for Kamara to get acclimated with Sporting KC.
“I knew he’d be disconnected at times,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. “It’s good to get him out on the field with us, but look, he needs a little time.”
Osvaldo Alonso returned to the Sounders after missing their draw with Philadelphia while his wife gave birth to their second child. But that didn’t mean Seattle was back to full strength.
DeAndre Yedlin and Lamar Neagle were serving red card suspensions, and Obafemi Martins, Shalrie Joseph, Steve Zakuani and Marc Burch were out of the lineup with injuries, forcing Schmid to go with his 12th different lineup in 12 games.
The Sounders’ depth didn’t improve when backup goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann was dismissed from the bench for using foul or abusive language — he’d taken umbrage with an official on the sideline, and adroit lip-readers could make out his colorful choice of words.
Sporting KC played without defender Matt Besler, who’s been out with a right knee injury.
The closest either team came to scoring in the first half may have come when Sporting KC’s Ike Opara appeared to get a piece of the ball with his hand on a throw-in near the mouth of the goal.
The officials never blew the whistle for a hand ball.
The game looked as if it’d be decided by a pair of stingy defenses until the final minutes were ticking away, and Traore found himself in the right spot for the Sounders in stoppage time.
“We’re happy to get the win. We needed the points,” Schmid said. “This team has played well over this last period of time, in terms of us competing, and we needed a smidgeon of luck, which we haven’t been getting.”