Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sporting KC picks up point with 1-1 draw at Seattle Sounders FC

Sporting Kansas City earned a hard-fought 1-1 draw against the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field on Wednesday and remain unbeaten in their past six matches in all competition.

Sporting KC opened the scoring early with a goal from Jacob Peterson in the 8th minute and Seattle equalized shortly after with a volley from Patrick Ianni.

It was a night of many firsts, as Peterson notched his first goal for Sporting Kansas City, and Soony Saad, Peterson Joseph and Michael Thomas marked their first starts for the club while several starters were rested amidst a stretch of five games in 14 days.

The first half saw no lack of action and began at a frantic pace. Just eight minutes in, Sporting Kansas City notched the first goal of the match off of a half-volley from Peterson. His long throw-in from the right sideline was scuffled around Seattle’s box until Aurelien Collin won the aerial battle and directed it back to Peterson, who took one touch and volleyed the ball into the upper 90 of the left side of the goal.

The goal, the earliest ever scored in the series, was Peterson’s first since joining the club in the offseason and is the 10th of his career, while Collin collected his first MLS assist on the play.

Seattle responded four minutes later when Freddy Montero took advantage of a poor pass from Roger Espinoza, intercepted and shot, but was deflected off of the right post.

The Sounders FC equalized in the 15th minute with the earliest goal conceded by Sporting Kansas City and scored by Seattle this season. Mauro Rosales sent a free kick from the right, connecting with Ianni’s outstretched right leg for the acrobatic scissors kick from inside the area.

Sporting KC was a hair away from notching a second goal four minutes later when Roger Espinoza, in his 100th appearance for the club, made a run down the right flank, slipped in a through ball to Soony Saad, who shot with his left foot, hitting the crossbar.

In the 29th minute, Eddie Johnson put Jimmy Nielsen to work when he slipped behind Kansas City’s backline and chipped the ball, shooting just wide of the goal.

Sporting KC continued to pressure in the 33rd minute with a lofted free kick from Espinoza, won by Collin, but his header went narrowly over the goal.

Five minutes later, Alex Caskey, looking for his first goal in MLS play, took a driving shot from 18 yards out but was deflected by Jimmy Nielsen.

Just a minute later, Johnson and Rosales showed the strength of their tandem when Johnson slipped a ball from the left to Rosales, who shot just wide of the far right post.

Collin remained calm under pressure in the 45th minute when Osvaldo Alonso played in a great cross to Rosales but Collin smartly dispossessed the Argentine and muscled the ball out of play.

The tempo refused to let up in the second half as Seattle searched for their first win in six MLS matches. In the 58th minute, Rosales, centered in Sporting’s box, tapped out to Montero on the left who went one-on-one with Nielsen but couldn’t get a clean shot off under pressure and sent it out for a goal kick.

Seattle continued to pose a threat four minutes later when Caskey slipped behind Sporting’s backline and fired the ball across the goal, catching Nielsen off his line, but missing wide of the far right post.

Sounders FC goalkeeper Andrews Weber, making his first start for the club, made his finest save of the match in the 71st minute when an errant header from Johnson nearly put the visitors ahead. Facing his former club for the first time since his breakout MLS season in 2007, Johnson inadvertently deflected a corner from Zusi with his head, forcing Weber to make a diving stop on the goalline.

The final 20 minutes had no shortage of back and forth action with opportunities for both sides. The 76th minute saw a corner from Zusi bounce dangerously around the box until it was finally cleared.

Neither team appeared content with a draw, as Sporting KC inserted Kei Kamara and C.J. Sapong, and the pressure continued to mount for the final minutes of the game despite tired legs.

Lawrence Olum was a hero in the 88th minute for Sporting KC when he cleared a driving shot from Montero that caught Nielsen off guard and ricocheted off of the far right post.

The Sounders FC were reduced to ten men in the first minute of stoppage time as second-half substitute Alvaro Fernandez was sent off for a late tackle from behind on Espinoza near midfield. The card was one of five shown by referee Jair Marrufo in the physical contest.

Sporting Kansas City finishes 6-1-2 against the Western Conference this season and will now travel across the country for their match at the Philadelphia Union on Saturday at PPL Park. The match will air live on KSMO-TV at 6:00 p.m. CT.