What a luxury the Sounders had Saturday afternoon, being able to bring two designated players off the bench. And it paid off.
WATCH HIGHLIGHTS: Philadelphia 1, Seattle 1
While few can argue that the inclement conditions led to a lack of aesthetics, the Sounders showed just enough attacking character to pull out an improbable stoppage-time draw.
Through 77 minutes, Seattle did not tally a shot on goal as the monsoon-like conditions hampered the attacks of both teams. Trailing 1-0 for much of the match after Carlos Ruiz’s 31st-minute free kick goal, the Sounders looked to the bench for inspiration.
After Montero and Nate Jaqua entered in the 66th minute, Schmid played his final card on Fernandez. The out-of-favor DP jumpstarted Seattle’s offense seconds after his introduction, forcing a goal-line block from Philadelphia’s Danny Califf.
Then, seconds into stoppage time, the Uruguayan rose to nod Montero’s cross in off the back post.
“It was big,” Schmid said of Fernandez’ late goal, which improved Seattle’s unbeaten streak to four games. “He and I talked this week. I’ve tried to be very clear as to what I need from him, what I was looking for. He responded well in training, and I said, ‘If the opportunity presents itself, we’ll get you in’ and he came up huge for us. It was a big goal.”
Fernandez, a World Cup veteran who has found himself out of the starting XI recently, accounted for both of Seattle’s shots on goal against Philly.
“We were behind and we knew that we needed to score,” Fernandez said after the match. “I had the first chance and it didn’t go in unfortunately but thankfully the second one did.”
Will the goal lead to more playing time for Fernandez? It’s be too early to tell. Certainly, Montero’s return to health from wrist surgery will signal some changes in the Sounders lineup, and Schmid expressed happiness with Seattle’s recent success with a 3-5-2 formation.
“Yeah, it’s obviously important when you can put guys out there and establish a rhythm,” Schmid said. “Now you have Montero coming back into the mix as well, so you’ve got to figure out how to fit the pieces of the puzzle work together.”
The Rave Green (1-2-3, 6pts) travel again next week, heading to the Rocky Mountains to take on the Colorado Rapids on Friday, in front of a national TV audience on FOX Soccer.