sports 3 days ago

Sounders pick up long-awaited first point but Sporting K.C.'s late equalizer keeps them winless

The Seattle Times — Geoff Baker The Seattle Times

April 16--A rather desperate Sounders team looking to avoid the worst start in franchise history had sent out a young brother combination in hopes of generating some type of spark.

Having Cristian Roldan in the defensive midfield Sunday at Sporting Kansas City was a given, but the addition of his rookie younger brother, Alex, on left wing for his first Major League Soccer start was certainly not. The Roldan brothers would combine for a go-ahead second half goal in what ultimately ended in a 2-2 draw with Sporting Kansas City and a long-awaited first point of the season for the Rave Green.

"It is a tough place to play so we're happy with going home with a point," the younger Roldan, a onetime star for Seattle University, said afterwards in quotes supplied by the league. "Hopefully, this will be something that will get us going."

The Roldans became the seventh brother combination to start a game together in MLS history and the first since Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos did it last season for the Los Angeles Galaxy.

For a while, it looked like the move would pay off in a stunning victory for the Sounders, who haven't won at K.C. since the 2013 season. The Sounders, having scored their first goal of the season when Will Bruin struck paydirt just seconds before halftime, took a 2-1 lead in the 73rd minute on a Cristian Roldan strike to the far corner of the net.

Alex Roldan had gotten the play started with a good ball ahead to Bruin, who held up the defenders long enough for Cristian Roldan to race into position. Bruin calmly slipped the ball to a wide-open Roldan, who drilled it past goalkeeper Tim Melia to his right.

Alas, the Sounders could not hold the lead.

Sounders left back Nouhou, who had a terrible afternoon defensively, got caught upfield in the 78th minute and watched as midfielder Graham Zusi raced on by him for a through ball. Zusi waltzed in alone on goalkeeper Stefan Frei from the right side and beat him from close range to even things up.

"It's going to sting for a bit because we were able to go up 2-1 on them late in the game and then gave one up," Alex Roldan said.

Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer also wasn't happy with the late lapse.

"We should have won the game," he said. "But that's how MLS is."

Schmetzer had kept highly-touted signing Magnus Wolff Eikrem on the bench and inserted the rookie Roldan instead, hoping he and opposite wing Handwalla Bwana might jumpstart the team's moribund attack. The Sounders were missing a suspended Clint Dempsey and Kelvin Leerdam and an injured Victor Rodriguez and Harry Shipp.

"The young kids did exactly what we asked them to do, which was to bring some energy into the game and to bring some of their soccer to the game." Schmetzer said. "It's not just when you talk about young players that all they do is run around and are good athletes. These two players actually have some soccer in them."

The Sounders, now 0-3-1, had never lost their first four games and -- despite their offensive flourish -- might have gone down to defeat again had Frei not made several key stops throughout.

They trailed 1-0 and had run their goal-less streak to a franchise record 315 minutes to start the season before Bruin scored in stoppage time at the first half's end. Up to that point, the half had been a tale of two Nouhous -- with the Cameroonian creating some early chances before a pair of lapses led to the first K.C. goal.

Nouhou had nearly cost his team a goal in the 32nd minute when he lost his man on a 35-yard cross and saw the ball headed just wide of the net. Less than a minute later, Scottish winger Johnny Russell, ex of Derby County in the English Premier League, blew by Nouhou like a Ferrari would a Prius.

Nouhou had little choice but to upend Russell in the box, leading to an Ilie Sanchez penalty kick that was buried just under the crossbar for a 1-0 lead. The Sounders at that point had been outscored 6-0 on the season and 9-0 their prior four-plus games counting the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League loss to Chivas.

But then, as stoppage time began, Nouhou again tried to make something happen along the left flank and this time was rewarded when fouled just outside the box. Nicolas Lodeiro served up the free kick to Bruin, who headed it off the crossbar from 6 yards out.

Play continued and a poor K.C. clearance led to a Lodeiro throw-in that Chad Marshall flicked to Bruin, standing just a few yards from the net. Bruin tapped it past K.C. keeper Melia to give the Sounders a massive emotional lift just seconds before the halftime -- momentum that carried over into the second half.

"Especially here in Kansas City, it's tough to play," said Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, who played his first minutes of the season as a second half substitute. "We let the three points go, but one point is good. We have to focus now on Minnesota (next Sunday) and be happy with the point."

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34' Ilie Sanchez goal

.@iliesanchez steps up and buries it! 1-0 @SportingKC. #SKCvSEA https://t.co/4FYUSvl4hK

-- Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 15, 2018

45'+3' Will Bruin goal

The first goal of the year for @SoundersFC ties it up! #SKCvSEA https://t.co/kfUwnXupxc

-- Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 15, 2018

73' Cristian Roldan goal

Cristian Roldan's strike gives @SoundersFC the lead 2-1! #SKCvSEA https://t.co/mg1TYOtLo3

-- Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 15, 2018

78' Graham Zusi goal

Graham Zusi out of nowhere. 2-2. #SKCvSEA https://t.co/hlJBJoAbkk

-- Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 15, 2018

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