MEN OF THE MATCH
Sounders draw up fourth straight
By MATT GASCHK
Sounders FC Insider
Commerce City, Colo. – There are good draws and there are bad draws.
The Sounders FC traveled to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park and escaped with a 2-2 draw with the Colorado Rapids Saturday night and it can only be described as a good draw as the Sounders played without starting midfielders Freddie Ljungberg and Brad Evans and lost another in Osvaldo Alonso in the first minute of the game.
Kasey Keller finished with five saves, each proving him to be the best goalkeeper in the MLS, and Fredy Montero and Nate Jaqua eachs scored for the Sounders, who maintained their hold on second place in the Western Conference at 4-2-4 (16 points). Colin Clark and Conor Casey scored for the Rapids, who are four in the West at 3-2-4 (13 points).
The Rapids started putting the pressure on Keller early. In the ninth minute, Casey got his head on a cross from close range, but Keller knocked it free for his first save.
Seattle got on the board first with Montero’s fourth goal of the season. The play started when James Riley battled for a ball deep in the defensive corner, won possession and worked the ball forward to Jaqua. He led Jaqua too far, though and Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens knocked it clear for a Seattle throw in.
On the ensuing play, Riley swung a cross in to Montero, who got his foot on a shot that clanged off the near post. The ball caromed right back to him, though, and Montero knocked the ball into the net with a header for a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute.
In the 24th minute, Keller came alive again, this time charging off his line and sliding into the ball to knock it off the feet of Casey.
But two minutes later, Omar Cummings carried the ball up the field to the right corner of the penalty box unscathed before sending a cross in to Clark racing in from the far post. Clark got his right foot on the ball and knocked it past Keller for his second goal of the season in the 26th minute, evening the score at 1-1.
The 35th minute saw Keller make what would be the save of the year, as he kept Casey out of the net for a third time by knocking his point-blank header clear. Before the halftime whistle the Sounders had to call on Keller again, as he went to the ground to knock a shot from Nick LaBrocca, who broke free up the middle to get a shot off in stoppage time.
The Rapids carried that momentum into the second half, though and Casey finally put himself on the scorer’s sheet with his sixth goal of the year. He got the ball one-on-one with Tyrone Marshall and got to his outside foot, where he blasted a left-footed shot that was redirected by Pete Vagenas coming back to defend, popping the ball up over Keller and into the net to give the Rapids a 2-1 lead in the 47th minute.
Seattle continued to put the pressure on, though, and capitalized on another chance started by Riley. This time the Colorado Springs native sent a cross to Montero at the back post and Montero knocked it down to Jaqua, who collected it and slipped it past Pickens to equalize at 2-2 in the 76th minute.
The Sounders looked to regain the lead in the 86th minute when Steve Zakuani split two defenders to take a pass and get off a shot, but Pickens knocked it clear to preserve the 2-2 draw.
The same two teams meet Tuesday at Starfire in Tukwila for a US Open Cup play-in game. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 pm, with the winner advancing to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
Seattle’s next league game is against the defender MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew. Saturday’s kickoff is set for 7:30 pm from Qwest Field.