COLUMBUS, Ohio – After a severe thunderstorm delayed the match nearly two hours, the sellout crowd of 20,392 in attendance at Columbus Crew Stadium saw the home team fall 1-0 to a Seattle Sounders squad that played more than 83 minutes of the game with 10 men.
While Crew captain and designated player Federico Higuain served the first match of his two-game suspension, rookie forward Ryan Finley earned his first MLS start for Columbus. Recently-acquired forward Clint Dempsey started the match at forward for Seattle alongside his US men's national team colleague Eddie Johnson.
The drama started early in the match, when Seattle defender Leo Gonzalez was issued a red card in the 7th minute.
A deflection gave Crew forward Ryan Finley a breakaway toward goal just past the halfway line, and as the rookie accelerated past the last Seattle defender, Gonzalez yanked him to the wet turf, forcing referee Ismail Elfath to reach into his back pocket for the red card, giving Columbus a man advantage for the remainder of the match.
Despite being shorthanded, the Sounders were the first to hit the back of the net only eight minutes later, when a Mauro Rosales free kick found the head of Johnson. The Seattle striker found a seam in the Columbus defense and easily headed home the opener.
With Seattle down to 10 men, the match seemed to open up for both teams, and the half played out with a plethora of chances in both directions. A sliding block by Jhon Kennedy Hurtado prevented Jairo Arrieta from equalizing on a Dominic Oduro cross in the 33rd minute, and Crew goalkeeper Matt Lampson got a toe to a Lamar Neagle shot destined for the back of the net just before the half.
The Sounders tired down the stretch and spent much of the second half bunkering in their own end of the field. But despite numerous Columbus crosses and passes into dangerous areas, the Crew could not break through a Seattle side that was clearly focused on defense as Higuain's creative influence was clearly missed.
The best chance for Columbus came in the 80th minute, when Oduro broke through the Seattle defense, outran the last defender and cut to his left past goalkeeper Michael Gspurning. With a nearly open net, Oduro's shot was too close to the 'keeper, and Gspurning got a finger on the attempt, pushing it wide to secure the victory for the Sounders.
With the win, Seattle improve to 40 points on the season, good enough for third place in the Western Conference with four games in hand on leaders Real Salt Lake. Columbus stays in eighth place in the East with 29 points, eight back of fifth-place New England.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Eddie Johnson||EJ produced the definitive moment on a scrappy evening - but is his "pay me" goal celebration a sign of simmering discontent?|
|2||Michael Gspurning||The Austrian GK ably anchored his shorthanded side's resistance against a barrage of Columbus crosses and set pieces.|
|3||Ryan Finley||The rookie caused a red card and worked passionately all evening. His efforts deserved better from his teammates.|