Fielding an ideal starting XI has been one of the Seattle Sounders’ biggest challenges all season.
It will continue to be one.
A pair of red cards to Lamar Neagle and DeAndre Yedlin – and the possibility of further punishment – put a bit of a dark cloud over the Sounders’ 2-2 tie with the Philadelphia Union on Saturday.
"It has been our story all season,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said, noting that he’s used different starting lineups in all of their matches. “Philadelphia I think has played the same team the past four games, we haven’t had that luxury. So once we get to that level I think it will improve our play.
“It’s just guys missing, not knowing what the guy next to him is going to do. This is the first game Eddie [Johnson] and Lamar have played together. If you play more games together, you have a better understanding of what the other person is going to do.”
The Sounders were already a bit short-handed even before the red cards. Obafemi Martins, Steve Zakuani, Shalrie Joseph and Osvaldo Alonso were all left back in Seattle.
Although it’s conceivable that all four could rejoin the Sounders before their match against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday, only Alonso missed the game for a non-injury reason. Alonso stayed behind to be with his wife, who gave birth to the couple’s daughter on Friday.
Despite the juggled lineup, the Sounders still managed to score more than one goal for the first time in seven league matches.
Johnson got the Sounders off to a fast start, scoring a header off a Mauro Rosales corner kick in the 10th minute. After giving up a pair of goals just 88 seconds apart in the 50th and 51st minutes, the Sounders equalized in the 64th minute on Rosales’ first goal since Sept. 2, 2012.
While salvaging a point was clearly better than dropping all three, the Sounders still have just six points through seven matches and remain mired in last place in the Western Conference.
“We have to take the point today, like it or not,” goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said. “It was a good team and a strong and physical team. To take the point, we wanted three and it was possible, but in the end you are one man down and have to take the point.”
Complicating the Sounders’ effort to win their second match of the season was playing 10-v-10 for six minutes and the final three-plus minutes of stoppage time a man down. Neagle and Union defender Sheanon Williams were both shown red cards after tussling in the 84th minute, while Yedlin got his red card for a challenge from behind in the first minute of stoppage time.
Missing those two players will only add a degree of difficulty to the Sounders correcting their franchise-worst start.
“It is going to be another challenge,” Johnson said. “But at the end of the day, as a player you want to be challenged. That is what makes you a better player, that is what gives you a better understanding of the game, and we are looking forward to the challenge.”