Playing a man down for almost 85 minutes on the road and losing arguably their best two-way player was not how the Seattle Sounders drew it up.
Of course, the Sounders aren’t about to worry about style points following their 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew on Saturday. The Sounders were able to overcome Leo Gonzalez’s 7th-minute red card, as well as losing Brad Evans to an apparent calf injury in the 19th minute, to pick up their 5th road win of the season and move into 3rd place in the Western Conference.
“We got something special today, the character we showed is something else,” Sounders midfielder Mauro Rosales said during the postgame interview on the team’s telecast. “I’m proud of my boys. So proud of the guys to play with this heart.”
The match got off to an inauspicious start, as kickoff was delayed nearly two hours due to severe thunderstorms. As if going through warmups twice wasn’t taxing enough, Seattle made matters worse when Gonzalez was shown a red card in the 7th minute after being judged to have denied a clear goal-scoring opportunity by dragging down Ryan Finley during a Crew breakaway.
But the Sounders responded by getting an early goal when Rosales fed Eddie Johnson on a free kick. The USMNT forward rose above the defense and headed it past Crew goalkeeper Matt Lampson, the second straight game Johnson has scored off a free-kick delivery by Rosales, setting the stage for more than an hour of stout defensive resistance.
Johnson celebrated his goal by rubbing his fingers together and appearing to mouth the words “pay me.”
“We’re a good team on set pieces,” Johnson said. “I think one of my strengths is being dangerous in the box. Mauro Rosales and I have a good relationship. We showed last year the relationship that we had and it’s starting to click again this year. I think four of the seven goals I’ve scored I think he’s assisted and I think they’ve all been headers.
“We just want to, as a team, enjoy this win. It wasn’t the prettiest soccer, but we knew they were going to have chances.”
The celebration of the win was at least tempered a little by the loss of Evans, who along with Johnson and Clint Dempsey was scheduled to leave the Sounders to join the United States national team in preparation for a pair of World Cup qualifiers next week.
Although the Sounders did their best to stay loose during the weather delay by playing a game of cricket in the locker room, there was some thought that the downtime contributed to Evans’ injury, as well as both Johnson and Dempsey reporting some less serious ailments.
“Hopefully he’s OK for the national team game,” Johnson said. “But for myself, as a guy who’s been playing a lot of minutes and who has been playing for the national team, I started to feel tired as well, and I think it was smart of [Schmid] in bringing me out so I don’t have the same risk that Brad had.
“I think we showed a lot of character and I think this team two months ago we lose this game, but we showed that when our backs are against the wall we’re going to grind and try to get something out of the game.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com.