COLUMBUS, Ohio – In the biggest game of the season against the league’s top team, the Sounders FC got a great moment from an unlikely source. Then it took a great defensive play and a bit of luck, but Seattle pulled off the unthinkable by shocking the Columbus Crew 1-0 at Crew Stadium, where Columbus were unbeaten in their previous 22 games.
Roger Levesque scored his first career MLS goal in the 36th minute, Tyrone Marshall saved a ball off the line in the 70th minute and reigning MLS MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto missed on a penalty kick in the 83rd minute and the Sounders moved one step closer to the playoffs with Kasey Keller’s tenth shutout of the season.
“It was nice to have some things go our way. We had some decent chances to extend (the lead), but at the same time you have to give them a lot of credit, they obviously weren’t going to lose this record easily,” Keller said. “They put some numbers forward, they threw it in the box, they made it difficult for us. But somehow we were able to hold on. Everybody fought really well all the way around the field and that makes a big, big difference.”
Coaching in Columbus for the first time since leaving the MLS Cup champions in favor of the Sounders FC last offseason, Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid hade to test his coaching mettle even before kickoff. While starting forward Nate Jaqua sat out with a league suspension for yellow card accumulation and midfielder Sebastien Le Toux limited this week while battling the flu, Schmid thrust Levesque into the starting lineup and he was rewarded for his trust in the Seattle stalwart.
Freddie Ljungberg worked the ball through the midfield before centering a pass to Brad Evans 30 yards out. Evans then slid a pass to Fredy Montero in the box, but Columbus goalkeeper William Hesmer beat Montero to the ball, knocking it back to the top of the box where Levesque was waiting for a right-footed shot that slid just past Hesmer’s outstretched arms for the 1-0 lead in the 36th minute.
A veteran of six seasons with the Sounders in the United Soccer League, Levesque scored for the first time in an MLS uniform, a career spanning 278 minutes over four seasons.
“Our main goal is to make the playoffs right now and we need every point we can get, so it started with tonight and these three points are unbelievably important,” Levesque said.
In the 70th minute Marshall made a tremendous effort to maintain Seattle’s one-goal lead over the league-leading Crew. Robbie Rogers played a ball from the right side to the far post for Eddie Gaven, who headed back across the frame to Steven Lenhart for another header that got past Keller, but Marshall was there with an overhead kick off the line. The play wasn’t dead there though, as the ball fell to the feet of Kevin Burns 26 yards out for a shot that Marshall again deflected away for a corner kick to preserve the lead.
Seattle nearly added to that advantage in the 75th minute. After a Ljungberg corner kick was defended away by Columbus, the ball landed at the feet of Osvaldo Alonso 20 yards out on the left side of the box. He smashed a shot, beating Hesmer to the far post, but it hammered off the upright and then off the back of Hesmer, who dove to his left to try for the stop. Bouncing back toward the goal, it looked the ball would go into the net to extend Seattle’s lead to 2-0, but instead spun wildly and twisted around the near post for a corner kick.
The final dramatic moment came with less than ten minutes left on the clock. Gaven made a run up the left side and got into the box, but Jhon Kennedy Hurtado knocked him to the turf to give Columbus a penalty kick.
Schelotto stepped up to the mark in the 83rd minute, but his shot split wide left at the low corner for a goal kick.
Seattle held on for the final minutes of action and moved one step closer to the playoffs at 10-7-11 (41 points) and pushes them to a tie for 3rd in the Western Conference with Chivas USA.
“The game of soccer is a strange game,” Schmid said. “I think this week we had good fortune on our side. It’s not often that Guillermo misses a PK. We had the post save us, they had the post save them; we had to dig down a little bit, it was a bit of a scrappy affair for us. But the Crew is a good team, they’re the best team in the league. For us to be able to come in here and win 1-0, no matter how it was, is something we’re very proud of.”
The Seattle win ends the Crew’s home winning streak at an MLS record 22 games, dating back to June of 2008. Columbus fell to 12-5-10 (46 points), but still holds the top record in the MLS.
“A streak’s a streak,” said Evans, who played the first two years of his career with the Crew. “It’s really impressive that they’ve had that long of a streak, so it was good to be a part of that as well and then coming back and getting the win is impressive. It’s a good step for our team.”
After a week off, the Sounders will be back in action October 17 on the road against the Kansas City Wizards.