TUCSON, Ariz. – The goal for Friday night’s friendly against Veracruz of the Mexican second division was to get 90 minutes for Seattle’s starting unit against a team that plays the style of their CONCACAF Champions League opponents next month in Tigres UANL.
On both sides of the ball the Sounders were able to execute that game plan, however, despite creating several chances to score the goals didn’t come and the match finished in a 0-0 draw.
“It gives us some good talking points as to what we can expect when we play Tigres,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “We had opportunities to score three-four goals in the first half. We didn't finish well. The goalkeeper came up big on one or two, as well. If we finish those chances then the game would have been a little bit different for us. Overall, I'm pleased that we got 90 minutes in.”
The Sounders started off the match strong, working the ball around the field in the Veracruz end with ease, and looked like they would get on the board in the seventh minute when Eddie Johnson got into space on the right side of the box and shot to the far post, hitting the inside of the post where it was cleared off the line by the defense.
The Sounders continued to press for the goal and in the 15th minute Mario Martinez sent a fantastic ball from Seattle’s own end to slip Johnson behind the Veracruz defense again. With nothing but grass and the goalkeeper between him and a 1-0 lead Johnson looked to be poised to give Seattle the advantage, but he was pulled down from behind by Raul Rico for a red card ejection.
Given the nature of the preseason friendly, the teams agreed before the match that players would be replaced on the field in the event of a red card, so Veracruz was allowed to play at full strength for the rest of the match.
For a stretch after the ejection, Veracruz played the ball back and forth along the backline, attempting to create space in the Seattle defense to start an attack. Steve Zakuani was able to break up that plot though, breaking away and picking off a pass, carrying it into the box before having his shot saved by the Yoin Urbina, who would be tested throughout the night.
Seattle continued to create chances on the offensive side, but the second half also saw plenty of action for the Sounders defense.
In the 78th minute Veracruz earned a corner kick and two point-blank headers were saved off the line by Michael Gspurning, who continued his scoreless preseason with the shutout.
In the 84th minute, Gspurning made another diving stop at the post and despite several efforts on goal in the final minutes, the Sounders weren’t able to take advantage and the match finished in a scoreless draw.
“People got into the box, I thought we were around there,” Schmid said. “Again, it's that fine-tuning of finishing under pressure that practice can't quite replicate. Only games can replicate it so it was good to have a game today to do that.”
The Sounders will meet Real Salt Lake on Saturday in the final match of their preseason prep for the 2013 season in the Desert Diamond Cup final. The match will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network with a scheduled start time of 5 pm PT.
Sounders FC – None.
Veracruz – None.
Sounders FC – Zach Scott (caution) 81.
Veracruz – Raul Rico (ejection) 15.
Sounders FC – Michael Gspurning, DeAndre Yedlin, Zach Scott, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez, Mario Martinez (David Estrada 62), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Steve Zakuani, Mauro Rosales, Eddie Johnson.
Veracruz (starters) - Yoin Urbina, Raul Rico, Omar Dominguez, Guillermo Chavez, Orlando Pineda, Jose Luis Lopez, Jorge Manrique, Braulio Luna, Rafael Medina, Pablo Torres, Alvaro Estrada.