The final score read Seattle 1, Kansas City 0.
Before Michael Fucito provided the happy ending with the stoppage-time goal, the offensive failures of the Seattle Sounders were plain to see on Saturday afternoon.
Playing against a patchwork Kansas City defense including a newly converted left back (Roger Espinoza) and a player making his first MLS start on the road (Pablo Escobar), Seattle failed to look dangerous for large stretches of Saturday’s match.
Even after Kansas City lost the services of injured veteran leader Jimmy Conrad, Seattle still struggled to pressure the Wizards, managing only two shots on goal for the entire match.
It wasn’t until Brad Evans came on as a substitute that Seattle could generate any sustained offensive effort. Evans had been dropped from the starting lineup after a poor performance the previous weekend against Real Salt Lake.
“I thought before the substitution for Brad they had control for 10 minutes,” said Seattle coach Sigi Schmid after the victory. “Bringing him in changed our energy."
It was the inclusion of Fucito in the 85th minute that proved the difference-maker—the two substitutes combined for the winning goal.
While the team will bask in the happiness of a stoppage-time goal, one must ask why Seattle’s attack continues to look toothless at home. Or, perhaps more accurately, just how much this team misses an in-form Evans.
At his best, Evans provides more offensive punch and covers more ground than his replacement against KC, Pete Vagenas. For all his organizational skills, the veteran Vagenas is simply not the offensive threat that Evans can be.
“Peter Vagenas does a lot for us on the field and he talks a lot on the field so he makes people around him better,” Schmid said. “For sure, Brad is not out of our plans and he showed that by contributing on the goal."
On Saturday, with Vagenas and Osvaldo Alonso playing alongside one another as holding midfielders, there were no Sounders players occupying the gap just behind Fredy Montero and Freddie Ljungberg. Alonso attempted to fill this void by pushing farther up the field than he normally does.
Nevertheless, Seattle’s strikers often found themselves outnumbered by blue-shirted defenders.
"We're trying to be varied in our attack and have different people pop up in different places,” Schmid said. “We stay up too high sometimes as a front four. Sometimes we become stagnant, and we need to be flexible and variable in our attack."
For much of the match, Seattle only sent four players forward. Even on free kicks, the center backs did not push into the area until late in the game.
The result was a paucity of chances. Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen only made one save all match, a diving effort to deny Fredy Montero in the 14th minute. According to the match statistics, the Rave Green did not attempt another shot on goal until Fucito’s winner. While all goals count the same, catching the opposition by surprise on a quick throw-in is not as comforting as earning a goal through the run of play.
As some of the Seattle players pointed out, Kansas City does deserve credit.
However, at least until Nate Jaqua returns from injury or Blaise Nkufo arrives in midseason, Seattle will need to rely on Evans. No other player on the Seattle roster can bolster Seattle’s already-thin attack.
"I thought I came on and made a good contribution,” Evans said. “Whether it's coming off the bench or starting, whatever I can do to help get three points is what I'm going to do."