SEATTLE, Wash. -- Two of the top three teams in the MLS standings met on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field on Saturday. But two red card ejections within five minutes of each other took the wind out of the sails for the Sounders FC and the Chicago Fire and they played to an even 0-0 draw.
Chicago midfielder John Thorrington was ejected for a reckless tackle, his second yellow card of the match, in the 54th minute and Seattle midfielder Freddie Ljungberg was cautioned for simulation when it was ruled that he embellished a foul just outside the box in the 59th minute. He then was ejected for dissent because of his reaction to the call.
Seattle’s Kasey Keller finished with two saves and Fire keeper Jon Busch had five to earn the shutouts and both teams had shots rattle off the woodwork to preserve the scoreless draw.
“I thought we had enough chances to win the game,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “As we went at them early on, I thought we created a lot of things. Overall, I wasn’t displeased at halftime. They had one good chance at the end where they hit the post, but outside of that I thought we had more of the game for sure.”
Seattle got the first of those opportunities in the 16th minute when Fredy Montero timed a bouncing ball into the box and took it away from Fire defender Wilman Conde. He flicked the ball over Busch from the left post, but it went just wide of the far post and the score remained 0-0.
In the 27th minute, Montero again chipped over Busch, but missed wide a second time.
The 37th minute saw another missed opportunity for the Sounders. Montero lobbed a ball over the top of the defense to Nate Jaqua for a header at the far post, but Busch deflected the header right back to Jaqua’s feet. The Sounders forward struck the rebound, but Busch smothered it for the save.
“Unfortuanately today we just weren’t sharp in that final pass or final shot,” Jaqua said. “We still got a point out of it – I’m disappointed, but it just gives us motivation against San Jose (Seattle’s next opponent August 2).”
The missed chances kept Seattle scoreless for only the fourth time this season. They were third in the league with 26 goals entering the match against Chicago.
“Another day, I think we score three goals. It just didn’t happen for us today,” Keller said.
The second half saw one chance prevented by the crossbar from each team, but not after both were reduced to ten men.
First, Thorrington tackled Ljungberg from behind just outside the box on the left side for his second yellow card caution to earn an ejection in the 54th minute.
Schmid didn’t view the man-advantage as an opportunity, but rather an omen.
“I told the coaches on the bench, somehow, somewhere today, we’re going to get a red card,” Schmid said.
His statement turned true when Ljungberg was called for simulation after an apparent foul on a run just outside the box. Ljungberg was vocal in his objection, but said after the game that nothing he said was divisive enough that it should have earned an ejection.
“It’s an important game and there were players on their team laughing and saying, ‘He’s on our side today, Freddie.’ If I would have just walked away, I wouldn’t have cared to win the game,” Ljungberg said, noting that his competitive nature took over. “If that’s a free kick just outside the box, we could have scored to win the game. I need to be concerned for that and want to win, otherwise, there’s no point in playing.”
Now playing even 10-on-10, Seattle and Chicago took the game back on the attack, but couldn’t find the net.
Montero twisted a shot toward the net in the 80th minute, but it clanged off the joint between the crossbar and far post. Chicago defender Brandon Prideux saw the same fate, though, when his header inside the box caught the bottom of the crossbar and bounced out where Seattle cleared it.
“This isn’t a good tie for us,” said Keller after his sixth clean sheet of the season. “We knew we played well enough to win the game and should have won the game. I thought for the most part we did a very good job. It was fairly comfortable for me, but we couldn’t quite make it happen.”
The draw moves both teams to 7-3-8 on the season. After four days off for the All-Star game, the Sounders will take to the road to face the San Jose Earthquakes Sunday, August 2.
Seattle will have four players – Keller, Ljungberg, Montero and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado – in the MLS All Star game on Wednesday at Real Salt Lake’s Rio Tinto Stadium.