SEATTLE—Sporting Kansas City’s new center back, it turns out, has some attacking chops.
Nuno Andre Coelho – the Portuguese defender brought in this offseason to inject some veteran pedigree into SKC’s backline – scored the game-deciding goal in the 73rd minute of his MLS debut against the Seattle Sounders on Sunday, helping his team earn a 1-0, season-opening road victory at CenturyLink Field.
Overall, it wasn't a bad first impression by Coelho on the likes of Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes.
“[Coelho] has actually done that since he’s been with us a little,” Vermes said. “He likes to go forward, which is a good thing. Comes unmarked and hits a great ball.”
Coelho’s shot will certainly haunt the nightmares of Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who looked in position to make a save that would have preserved the scoreless tie. But the elements worked in Kansas City’s favor: The ball took a wicked bounce off the rain-soaked turf and squirted into the Seattle net.
“I think it was a very tough ball because, at that point, the rain came and the ball really skidded off the turf,” Vermes said.
Either way, SKC goalkeeper Tim Melia and his backline will happily take Sunday’s clean sheet, given the treacherous weather and the adjustment of playing on a new and unfamiliar CenturyLink surface.
“It is a new turf and it was some of the better turf that I’ve seen,” Melia said. “But once it gets a little moist, the ball skips off it a little bit, you don’t trust the bounce. It causes problems.”
The result gives SKC a big victory over a Cascadia opponent and they’ll look to continue that run when they return home to take on the Vancouver Whitecaps next Saturday.
“Listen, in this league, whenever you can get a win anywhere, it’s huge,” Vermes said. “I’ve always said this is a tough place to play. I’ve known Sigi for a long time. We go way back together. He’s a very good manager, does a great job with the team, they’re always well organized. They’re a difficult team, so getting this result in the first game of the season is big points for us, no doubt.”