By MATT GASCHK
Sounders FC Insider
COLUMBUS, OHIO - On a dark, rainy night at Crew Stadium, the Sounders FC broke out their new Cascade shale jerseys and nearly were rained on by the Columbus Crew.
Four key saves in the second half by Kasey Keller kept the continual pressure from Columbus from breaking through and Seattle finished their long-distance road trip with a 1-1 draw.
“We took the lead early and we were hoping that we could hold on from that, but tired legs got the best of us in the second half,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “We had to hang on there a little bit at the end.”
Fredy Montero got the Sounders out to the early lead with his second goal of the season.
He passed off to Erik Friberg on the right side, then took off into the box. Friberg found himself with plenty of time and space and sent in a cross that found Montero battling his defender for a header that beat Will Hesmer for the 1-0 lead in the seventh minute.
The goal gives him two goals and two assists in five matches since having surgery to repair a broken wrist and drew praise from Schmid after the match.
“We need him to continue to raise his level. He’s an important player for our team,” Schmid said. “I thought the goal was a very good goal. It was a good cross by Erik Friberg and it was a good header.”
That lead held until halftime, but the Crew came out strong in the second half, outshooting Seattle 13-1 after the intermission. But Keller and the Sounders defense wouldn’t easily concede the points on the road.
Amidst of barrage of runs into the attacking third, Seattle limited the dangerous attempts for the Crew and when they did get threatening shots from the run of play, Keller was able to knock them clear.
However, when Chad Marshall took a spill in the box after contact from Pat Ianni, the Crew were sent to the penalty spot. Emilio Renteria scored the penalty, shooting hard down the middle while Keller dove to his right and the score was knotted at 1-1 in the 67th minute.
The goal didn’t phase Keller though as the Sounders keeper made a tip-save of a shot by Eddie Gaven in the 82nd minute and parried a stoppage time free kick over the crossbar to preserve the draw.
“The last 20 minutes they put us under a lot of pressure. I’m proud that we were able to hold un under that pressure,” Keller said.
After playing four of their last five matches on the road, including two in the last four days, the Sounders will return to Qwest Field for their next three matches, beginning next Saturday in the first match of the Cascadia Cup against the Portland Timbers. Seattle managed eight points from those five matches, with the lone defeat coming Wednesday against DC United.
“What I always enjoy is not getting on losing streaks. Don’t lose two, three, four games in a row,” Keller said. “Make sure you’re continually picking up points. Then when you win those couple games in a row that jumps you up the table. Now we’ve got three home games to pick up points and that’s the key.”
The Sounders will look to mend a bit with a week in Seattle before their next match. They played Saturday without the services of Mauro Rosales or Brad Evans, who were both scratched due to mid-week injuries. Added to the long-term injuries to Steve Zakuani and O’Brian White and the Sounders flexed a bit of their depth on the road trip.
“We’re disappointed we only got one point from the road trip,” Schmid said. “Based upon where we are physically … to get a tie out of here was great. We just have to refresh ourselves a little bit, catch our breath and move forward for Portland.”
Sounders FC - Fredy Montero (Erik Friberg) 7.
Crew - Emilio Renteria (PK) 67.
Sounders FC - Servando Carrasco (caution) 38; Fredy Montero (caution) 44; Leo Gonzalez (caution) 53; Alvaro Fernandez (caution) 64; Roger Levesque (caution) 90.
Crew - Sebastian Miranda (caution) 75.
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez, Erik Friberg (Nate Jaqua 66), Osvaldo Alonso, Servando Carrasco, Alvaro Fernandez (Lamar Neagle 89), Roger Levesque, Fredy Montero (Mike Fucito 84).
Crew - William Hesmer, Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Julius James, Rich Balchan, Kevin Burns (Emmanuel Ekpo 73), Dejan Rusmir, Dilly Duka (Andrew Mendoza 61), Eddie Gaven, Robbie Rogers, Emilio Renteria.