SEATTLE - Jordan Jennings did not expect to play Sunday afternoon in a friendly against Celtic FC. The Seattle University product and Tacoma native planned to sit on the bench while Terry Boss handled goalkeeping duties. The Tacoma Tide FC goalkeeper didn’t even bring his parents to the game because he thought there was no chance he would touch the field.
However, a 29th minute red card to Boss for “denying a goal scoring opportunity” pushed Jennings into the match.
Just one day after Jennings sat the bench while his PDL team drew 1-1 with Washington Crossfire in front of 25 people at Seattle’s Interbay Stadium, he was lined up against Greece international Georgios Samaras taking a penalty kick in front of 45,631 at Qwest Field in a match that was televised nationally on ESPN.
“I just remember seeing him in the World Cup with Greece. I’m thinking, ‘Am I really taking a PK from this guy?’” Jennings said. “It was amazing.”
Samaras converted the penalty and Patrick McCourt added a second half goal. David Estrada scored his first goal as a Sounder, but it wasn’t enough to reel in the Scottish Premier League club and Celtic finished with a 2-1 win.
“It still ended up being a decent game. It could have been a good game. It was a good game spoiled by I thought a poor decision,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “It is what it is. I'm proud of how our team continued to play. I’m glad we pulled a goal back. I’m disappointed with the second goal we gave up because I felt we were a little lazy on our defending on that, but I was proud of our mentality and the way we played in the second half.”
Samaras got away on a break up the middle and Boss sprung off his line to slow down the Celtic midifelder. In his lunge for the ball, he ended up catching Samaras by the foot and he went down, though the ball was still close enough to him that he knocked it into the net. However, referee Paul Ward ruled that Boss deserved a red card ejection on the play and he sent off the Sounders backup goalkeeper.
At that point, Jennings began warming up, subbing on for forward Fredy Montero as the Sounders shifted their formation while down a man for the remaining 61 minutes.
“I thought the referee should have just let the goal stand and common sense prevails, but I think he had already made the decision to give the penalty,” Celtic FC manager Neil Lennon said. “Sometimes it’s worthwhile to play against 10 men to see how we adapt although I probably would have preferred 11 on 11.”
Samaras lined up over the PK and knocked it high and left while Jennings guessed low and right, giving Celtic the 1-0 lead.
Jennings was unfazed by the goal, though, and went on to have three saves, allowing McCourt to score in the 64th minute on a tough ball to stop.
“Going against Celtic a man down, things were looking grim. It’s awesome we kept them within one. I thought we played well and handled them the best we could,” said Jennings.
On the offensive side, Estrada played a focused 26 minutes, smashing two shots and scoring his first Sounders FC goal while narrowly missing on the other.
In the 66th minute, he took a pass from Taylor Graham, took a couple of touches to create some space at the top of the box, then hammered it past goalkeeper Dominic Cervi - the only American on the Celtic roster. The goal trimmed Celtic’s lead to 2-1.
“He hit a bomb. I don't know if Cervi ever saw it,” Schmid said. “He stepped up. It was one of those balls that sits right for you and he took his chance.”
Seattle’s top pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft nearly tied it up in stoppage time as Seattle put on a passing clinic as the ball touched nearly all of their players before falling to Estrada on the right side of the box for another crushed shot. Cervi got a piece of this one though and parried it into the crossbar and away for a corner kick.
“I was just trying to give a little spark to the game,” said Estrada, who was placed on Injured Reserve with a hamstring strain and a sprained toe. “I’m just waiting for my chance and hoping I can get some games in.”
Estrada is still eligible to play in Open Cup, Champions League and friendlies, but the Injured Reserve keeps him ineligible for MLS play until September 4, when the Sounders travel to Gillette Stadium to face the New England Revolution, at the earliest.
Meanwhile, striker Blaise Nkufo made his Sounders FC debut, starting alongside Montero and playing the first 60 minutes before giving way to Roger Levesque.
“When you have a new player, you have to integrate with him and he needs to integrate to the team and we need to understand what he can do. He showed that he can be a forward for us and bring other players into the game, which is a good attribute to have,” Schmid said. “He’s been off since the World Cup, so as his fitness improves and his touch improves, I think we’re going to have a lot of joy.”
He made an impact nearly immediately, laying a ball off to Miguel Montaño for a shot in the 2nd minute of the match, though Montaño missed wide on the left-footed shot.
Then in the 10th minute Nkufo took a quick cross from Montero, but was hit hard from behind and his attempt was instantly cleared by Celtic defender Jos Hooiveld.
“I was happy to finally play in my first game with my new teammates. I can now move on and focus on the next game,” Nkufo said. “We are going to work together on the field. We have some time. This was my first game and we showed some good signs today.”
The Sounders return to training on Tuesday after a day off and will host the Colorado Rapids Sunday at Qwest Field.
Sounders FC - David Estrada (Taylor Graham) 66.
Celtic FC - Georgios Samaras (PK) 32; Patrick McCourt (Milan Misun) 64.
Sounders FC - Terry Boss, Zach Scott, Tyrone Marshall (Patrick Ianni 74), Taylor Graham, Tyson Wahl, Sanna Nyassi (Steve Zakuani 70), Osvaldo Alonso (Nathan Sturgis 59), Peter Vagenas (Pat Noonan 75), Miguel Montaño (David Estrada 64), Blaise Nkufo (Roger Levesque 60), Fredy Montero (Jordan Jennings 32).
Celtic FC - Dominic Cervi, Andreas Hinkel, Paul Caddis (Paul McGowan 67), Jos Hooiveld, Milan Misun, Patrick McCourt (Benjamin Hutchison 85), Simon Ferry, Ki Sung Yueng (Marc Crosas 71), Cillian Sheridan (Charles Mulgrew 56), Georgios Samaras (James Forrest 46), Morten Rasmussen (Marc Fortune 56).