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Sounders and Revs Battle to Draw

It was a battle of unexpected bottom-dwellers as the worst team in the East traveled to the home stadium of the worst team in the West. After ninety minutes of play it became clear why these two clubs are sitting at the bottom, respectively. The Revolution and the Sounders both looked tired and could not produce goals. The match ended with a nil-nil draw with Seattle missing a handful of easy shots.

The first easy shot which did not produce any points came from Steve Zakuani. An early cross set up an open goal on a pedestal, but the forward decided to shoot directly at the goalie. The ensuing corner produced another opportunity as Osvaldo Alonso struck the ricochet and it barely went over the crossbar. A goal kick was awarded, but the replay clearly showed the New England keeper touching the ball as it sailed out of bounds.

In the 22nd minute, Alex Caskey threaded a ball to Lamar Neagle who was blocked by the keeper. On the retaliatory pursuit from NE, Michael Gspurning came up for a stop on a through ball. Following the stop, Neagle set up Mauro Rosales, who overshoots and misses another chance (that’s three aggregate missed chances so far). Shortly thereafter, DeAndre Yedlin puts a ball out in front of Neagle for a scoring chance, however, Neagle was unable to keep up with the pass.

New England had their fair share of highlights and missed chances as well. For instance, Lee Nguyen committed a terrible shot in the 36th which verges on embarrassing. Bobby Shuttleworth was in top form; in the 39th he came way outside of his box and made a huge stop. Just before the end of the half, Zakuani broke down the middle and only had the keeper to beat, but his shot went directly at Shuttleworth. The first half ended with booing from the home team.

The second half drooled on much like the first half. A handful of chances for both sides with the defensive units (particularly the keepers) holding strong. Gspurning had some more crucial saves, including a great one during stoppage time.

There were a handful of fresh faces in the latter half: Andy Dorman, Saer Sene, Andy Rose, Philip Lund, and Mario Martinez. Attendance for the afternoon was 38,323. Seattle was short on the offensive core with Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins both not in uniform. It was clear that the team missed them.

Subside Sports Man of the Match: GK Michael Gspurning, Seattle Sounders FC

Porter’s Timbers Draw with Sounders

Coming off a victory over tough Mexican league club, Tigres UANL, Seattle advanced to the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. Djimi Traore and DeAndre Yedlin both had amazing, distance goals in the last match; Traore’s goal was world-class and floated around the Internet as a top goal for the week.  Saturday night was no different as the Sounders and Timbers both used great goals to settle the score, finishing with a 1-1 draw.

Seattle and Portland are longtime rivals. This year marks the third consecutive Cascadia Cup between the two clubs. Seattle won in 2011 and Portland took home the trophy last season. Seattle leads the overall rivalry, stretching back to 1975 at 41-28-10. They also lead in aggregate goals during league play 9-6 since introduction of the Timbers to the MLS a few years ago.

Just a few days before the match, Seattle Sounders FC confirmed the signing of Levante striker Obafemi Martins. Martins hails from Nigeria and has been playing in various European leagues while in his early twenties; his contract buyout from Levante was over three million euros! Now 28, he is still in top form and is expected to link up well with Eddie Johnson for goals. Martins is obviously a Designated Player for the Seattle Sounders FC.

The Portland Timbers also had some new roster additions to boast, as they signed ex-Manchester United defender Mikael Silvestre.

After a very windy start (Osvaldo Alonso’s early free kick to beat the keeper was gobbled up in a gust), Seattle appeared to be the stronger team. However, Ryan Johnson and Darlington Nagbe looked eager to score.

In the 13th minute, Steve Zakuani stole the ball and broke down the sideline past his defender and crossed beautifully to Johnson, who was open for the goal! A minute later, Portland crossed into the box and Johnson’s header hit the post. In the 20th minute, Johnson had a very clean stepover and a curving shot on target, but Donovan Ricketts was there for the save.

Michael Gspurning had some great saves in the first half, including an instance of mayhem during which he had two saves and was fouled.

One of the great matchups of the game was between Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and the Johnson/Nagbe duo. They exchanged fouls and steals for the full ninety and provided a healthy dose of energy and keen positioning.

The second half looked very much like the first half, lots of chances, lots of great defense, missed shots, and only one goal. Alonso fouled outside the Seattle eighteen; the ensuing free kick hit the crossbar. Yedlin, coming off of his amazing goal versus Tigres, tried another shot from outside. It was uncontrolled and off target to say the least. Portland possessed well for the middle third of the match, but Gspurning and the Seattle defense held strong.

In the 70th minute, Martins came in for Mario Martinez. Even though Martins looked a bit jet lagged and confused on the field, you can tell he is one of the more talented, quick players on the field. His lack of performance in the first match is understandable when considering he signed his contract a day earlier and has no real practice time with the Seattle Sounders FC. In no time at all I expect him to be a leader for the team.

Portland subbed in Rodney Wallace for Nagbe late in the match, which proved to be their best strategic play of the match. In the final minute of regulation, Portland chipped a ball forward into Seattle territory, which led to a corner. The corner was partially cleared, ricocheted a few times, and was popped into the box by Andrew Jean-Baptiste, and finished perfectly by Wallace. It was a devastating last ditch effort to say the least.

Sounders Fall to Impact in Game #1

Seattle Sounders FC kicked off their fifth season opener against the Montreal Impact. Historically, Seattle has struggled against the Canadian based club; the Sounders lost 4-1 in their last MLS meeting.  This season was no exception as the Sounders labored to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Impact.

Led by last year’s leading scorer Eddie Johnson (14), Seattle entered this season after a disappointing playoff performance to end the previous season. Fredy Montero is on a loan for the season, so a key offensive figure will be sorely missed. With Mauro Rosales aging quickly, as was obvious in Saturday’s match, other players will have to step up to the pitch as the season progresses.

The game began with the two sides exchanging chances and possession. Neither side stood out for the first half an hour of play. Seattle had a plethora of first half corners, but were unable to produce any goals. Impact striker Marco Di Vaio looked hungry for goals early on, but could not manage to stay onside long enough to have an effect. Rosales and Johnson linked up several times in the first half, but Johnson’s shots on goal were either directly at keeper Troy Perkins or wide of the goal.

The first and only goal of the match came from Davy Arnaud. Faster than the Sounders could position themselves, Felipe chipped a through pass to Arnaud, who sent the ball soaring over Michael Gspurning and into the back of the net in the 35th minute.

The first half saw a few more on target shots from both sides, but the defense and goalkeeping did not falter. Seattle led in possession, tackles, and shots on target in the first half. If only they could manage to produce points from these.

The second half played out in much the same manner. Montreal began with a player down for the first few minutes as Di Vaio did not return to the pitch immediately following the kick off. Several minutes into the half he returned to the field. His absence was primarily unnoticed.

For the Sounders, the second half proved disappointing to say the least. A circus of events occurred in the box as the Impact almost sealed the win twice before it was cleared to safety. Shortly thereafter, Andy Rose left the field with a confirmed left elbow contusion. He is expected to recover quickly. Seattle almost tied it up in the final third of the game. Brad Evans recovered the ball outside the Impact’s goal box and struck a beauty which slid through the defense only to hit the post, then Perkins, and then bounced away to safety. Again, in the 81st minute, a fantastic cross from Alex Caskey landed at the feet of an open Johnson. He stuck quickly and with purpose, but merely hit the crossbar; another missed chance for Seattle.

The final minutes of the match were frustrating for the Sounders and their fans. The Impact players began to flop and become injured, wasting at least ten minutes of regulation time. The crowd responded by hurling items onto the field and booing at the injured players. Seattle had one final attempt as a great cross from DeAndre Yedlin found Rosales. Rosales tried a sideways aerial kick with little success.

To say that the 38,998 fans in attendance were disappointed would be an understatement.  But this is a young season and the Sounders are sure to find success and soon.

Subside Sports Man of the Match: D DeAndre Yedlin, Seattle

Yedlin had a stellar match, and I would award him the Man of the Match. His keen awareness, speed, and great ball movement for such a young player will undoubtedly progress as the season continues. He is a Washington native and spent his collegiate career with The University of Akron. He was the team’s first Homegrown Player, having been signed on January 11th after two All-MAC First Team selections as a Zip. His start on Saturday marks the youngest player to start in the club’s history.

Back to the Drawing Board for Seattle

After a tough road loss for Seattle in L.A. last week, Seattle had a mountain to conquer going into Sunday night’s match. The Sounders needed to beat the Galaxy by at least three to tie. Despite the uphill battle, the Sounders came out with their heads heads and hopes high. They scored two goals in the first sixty minutes and kept L.A. off the scoreboard. The final third told a different story as L.A. snuck one past Michael Gspurning, crushing the hopes of a Sounders advancement to the finals. This leaves a lot of time for thinking during the off season. Seattle Sounders FC have not historically performed well during the playoffs and history has repeated itself again this season.

The first goal came in the 12th minute as Eddie Johnson broke past the defense on the left side and smacked one past the keeper. The goal marked Johnson’s 14th of the season, making him the top scorer for the Sounders.

Seattle’s second goal came off of a curling corner. Zach Scott made an amazing diving header and knocked the ball past the keeper to the far post. The goal was his first on the season.

The Galaxy responded in the final third of the match. Adam Johannson pinned down the Galaxy in the corner of the goal box. The L.A. player responded by wildly chipping the ball towards the front of goal. Johannson’s attempts to step in front of the ball caused his underarm to collide in the process. Robbie Keane scored the penalty in the 68th minute, sinking the nail into Seattle’s championship dreams.

Seattle had one last chance during stoppage time, but the Galaxy’s keeper held his ground. Now Seattle has the off season to re-evaluate and plan for the next season. Johnson and Osvaldo Alonso had some harsh words for the referees following the match.

Let’s make a simple point: yelling and arguing with them is never going to be productive, Mr. Johnson.

RSL Slips from Playoffs

Real Salt Lake’s season came to a painful close at Rio Tinto Stadium on Thursday night, when the Claret-and-Cobalt fell victim to a late goal to lose 1-0 on aggregate to Seattle Sounders FC in the two-legged Western Conference Semifinal series.

Seattle MF Mario Martinez scored the series’ lone goal in the 81st minute on Thursday night. The Honduran international scored an absolute cracker, smashing FW Fredy Montero’s chip on one bounce from the top left corner of the box inside the far post.

The game got off to a blistering start, with both sides getting up and down the field and testing the opposing defenses. Real Salt Lake controlled the early minutes, registering the first chance of the match in the 10th minute. FW Alvaro Saborio started the play, slipping MF Ned Grabavoy through on the left side of the box. Grabavoy ran onto the ball and fired a first time shot from a tight angle that Sounders GK Michael Gspurning held.

Seattle had its first look at goal in the 17th minute. Montero played a ball from the top of the box to MF Christian Tiffert on the right side, allowing the German DP to fire a shot that rolled a few yards wide of the far post.

RSL had the best chance of the half in the 19th minute. DF Kenny Mansally – who was only in the starting lineup because regular DF Chris Wingert injured his right quad during warm-ups – whipped a great cross in from the left wing, sneaking the ball past a Seattle defender and onto the foot of FW Paulo Jr. at the near post. Unfortunately for RSL, the unmarked Paulo couldn’t keep his shot on frame, hitting his first time right-footer wide of the near post.

Seattle had a scare in the 25th minute, when Tiffert had to be tended to after opening up a big cut on the side of his head following a 50-50 challenge with RSL DF Jamison Olave. Thankfully, Sounders trainers were able to close the laceration and get Tiffert back on the field a few minutes after the injury.

RSL GK Nick Rimando – so huge in the first leg – came up big for the Claret-and-Cobalt in the 31st minute. Martinez curled a 30-yard free kick toward the top right corner, but Rimando was able to get a hand on it, deflecting the dangerous drive over the bar.

Real Salt Lake had a decent dead ball chance of its own in the 40th minute. MF Javier Morales had the opportunity, curling a 25-yarder over the wall, into the wind and the hands of Gspurning.

RSL had another look before the close of the half. Some nice combination play in Seattle’s third allowed Saborio to lay a ball off to MF Will Johnson, whose 23-yard left footer got caught in the stiff breeze before Gspurning saved.

Rimando absolutely robbed Seattle at the start of the second half. A failed RSL clearance allowed Sounders MF Brad Evans to run free onto a ball at the top of the arc in the 46th minute and he nearly took advantage, ripping a low first time shot to the right post only for Rimando to paw it away with an incredible reaction stop.

Neither side had another chance until the 62nd minute, when RSL nearly went ahead on two separate occasions. The first chance came on a dead ball. Morales lofted a free kick in from the right wing and no one from either team got onto it, allowing the ball to bounce in the six yard box and forcing Gspurning into an awkward – and relatively difficult – save.

The second chance was more conventional. RSL DF Nat Borchers got on the end of MF Kyle Beckerman’s lofted cross at the left post, but couldn’t quite muster enough power on his header to beat Gspurning, nodding the chance into the Austrian GK’s hands.

The match kept its wild pace, with Seattle getting a good look at goal in the 64th minute. Evans got on the end of a cross at the left post, nodding the ball to Montero just inside the penalty spot. Montero nearly headed the chance home, flicking his header just wide of the far post.

RSL DF Tony Beltran knocked heads with Evans on the play, opening a cut on his forehead. RSL trainers were able to stop the bleeding and get Beltran back onto the field in relatively short order.

Real Salt Lake substitute FW Fabian Espindola – who didn’t start the game due to a hamstring injury – had a good chance in the 68th minute. The Argentine forward ran onto a Saborio flicked header at the top of the box, but Gspurning met him there, stopping Espindola’s attempt to head the ball on goal in a bang-bang play.

RSL kept attacking after Espindola’s chance, nearly carving out a goal in the 78th. Morales put Saborio in on goal with a fantastic through ball from midfield to the top of the box, but the Costa Rican striker couldn’t quite control the pass, eventually losing possession to a Sounders DF.

Martinez put Seattle ahead three minutes later.

I feel great that the team was able to finally qualify for the next round of the playoffs,” Martinez stated. “The goals will always give you confidence and it was a great opportunity for me personally and for me to defend the colors of the team.”

RSL responded to his strike with a multitude of offensive pressure and a pair of attacking substitutions but – although the team came close on several occasions – couldn’t quite find the all-important equalizer.

Though the season ended sooner than the team would’ve liked, Real Salt Lake still had a banner 2012, setting the club records for points (57), wins (17) and goals (46) during the regular season.