Why weren’t all 11 Sounders players crowded into their own penalty area to defend Nelson González’s corner kick in the dying seconds? Where was the back-post defender?
Those are the questions some Seattle fans are asking in the aftermath of the Sounders’ 2-2 road draw at Real Salt Lake on Saturday night. Considering Seattle had already conceded a cross-and-finish goal in the second half to RSL’s Will Johnson, one wondered why all hands weren’t on deck for the game’s defining play.
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Instead of three points on the road, Álvaro Saborío’s last-gasp equalizer sends the Rave Green back to Northwest with only one.
"Giving up a goal in the last second like that, we're not happy with it,” said Seattle coach Sigi Schmid after the match. “We could have walked away with three points."
In general, Seattle doesn’t employ a back-post defender on opposing corner kicks. And there’s no guarantee that having a defender there would have prevented Saborío’s game-tying goal in the 94th minute. However, the victory was there for the taking against the defending league champions.
As venerable soccer mind Alan Hinton pointed out in the Sounders post-game show, one point is more than Seattle got in its trip to Rio Tinto last season. As the Sounders pointed out during the week, averaging at least one point on the road is a good benchmark. However, watching the other two slip out of their fingers in such dramatic fashion will make for a long flight home.
Lost in the draw was another commanding performance by Seattle defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado. The Colombian showed again why he was in Sandy, Utah, last season for the MLS All-Star Game.
In one memorable sequence, he matched the speedy Robbie Findley step-for-step on a dangerous ball. After shutting down Findley’s path to goal, he ushered the RSL attacker towards the sideline. For the coup de grace, Hurtado used his body to poke the ball out of bounds, bringing Findley to the turf in the process. It was as dominant a one-on-one defensive performance as can be seen in the league.
Kasey Keller was also strong in goal, recording an excellent save on what looked like a sure goal from RSL’s Johnson. Neither of the two goals, which both came on crossed balls from the defensive left side into the penalty area, could have been saved.
Both goals, however, came on the watch of substitute defender Tyson Wahl, who entered the game after starter Leo González was forced to exit with an illness. Wahl was defending alongside midfielder Steve Zakuani when Robbie Russell lofted in the cross that led to Johnson’s diving header. On the play, Russell was left alone as Zakuani marked a player further upfield, leaving Russell unbothered on the first-time cross.
Wahl also let Fabián Espíndola put in another dangerous cross for Saborío, which probably should have been a goal.
The match also saw a total of four goals scored, a rarity for a Sounders FC match. Since giving up four goals last August at San Jose, Seattle had participated in a game with that much action only once, a 3-2 win on the road at Kansas City late last season.
Seattle will regroup with a week of training before taking on that same Wizards team next Sat., April 17, at Qwest Field.