CHESTER, PA - Entering Saturday’s match against the Philadelphia Union, Alvaro Fernandez had played a limited role in the Sounders FC’s success over the previous three matches.
Playing in a reserve role, “El Flaco” had only appeared for a 45-minute stretch in a 2-2 draw with San Jose as the Sounders went unbeaten over the three matches.
All that changed in the blink of an eye when he scored the game-tying goal to give the Sounders a hard-earned point with a 1-1 draw with the Union at a rain-drenched PPL Park.
“He and I talked this week and I tried to be very clear as to what I need from him and what I was looking for,” head coach Sigi Schmid said. “He responded well in training and I said if the opportunity presents itself we’ll get him in and he came up huge for us. It was a big goal.”
Fernandez subbed on for Erik Friberg in the 78th minute and was an instant burst of energy late in the match when the Sounders - and the game in general - needed it.
The Uruguayan midfielder nearly tied the game up the minute he entered the match. Fredy Montero, playing in his first match since wrist surgery on April 1, sent a left-footed pass into the middle that was defended by Faryd Mondragon to the middle of the box, where Fernandez blasted a shot, only to have Philadelphia defender Danny Califf knock it clear on the line for a tremendous stop to keep the Union on top 1-0.
Califf couldn’t stop Fernandez a second time though, as he connected on the stoppage time thriller. Mauro Rosales sent the corner kick to Nate Jaqua for a header at the penalty spot, but it skipped over him to Montero at the back corner of the box. Montero passed to Steve Zakuani deep in the box and Zakuani passed right back to Montero, who looped the ball back to the middle of the box where Jaqua and Fernandez both out-jumped Keon Daniel and Fernandez headed a shot into the inside of the far post with just enough on it for the ball to carom into the net for the equalizer.
“It’s great. Alvaro’s a good player - nobody ever said he wasn’t a good player,” Schmid said. “He played with a lot of energy offensively and defensively for us and was unlucky maybe not to have two.”
The goal came in the waning moments of a sloppy game that matched the weather conditions. Neither team created much in the realm of scoring chances in the first half, but the Union managed a goal off the half’s only shot on target.
Taking a free kick from 26 yards out from the right post, Carlos Ruiz hit a ball hard into the six-man wall, deflecting it off of Leo Gonzalez and freezing Kasey Keller as it redirected into the far corner of the net for the 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute.
It was the only flaw of the night for Keller, who finished with three saves as the Sounders earned their third draw of the season and extended their unbeaten string to four matches. They are now 1-2-3 (6 points) on the season while the Union are 3-1-1 (10 points).
“Great result to be able to come back and get that late goal,” Keller said. “Such a great feeling when you can keep a run alive and get a late goal for your team.”
The Sounders will take on the Colorado Rapids Friday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in commerce City, Colorado. The game will be televised nationally on Fox Soccer, with the radio call on 97.3 KIRO FM.
Sounders FC - Alvaro Fernandez (Fredy Montero) 91+.
Union - Carlos Ruiz 32.
Sounders FC - Osvaldo Alonso (caution) 30.
Union - Stefani Miglioranzi (caution) 55; Amobi Okugo (caution) 65; Carlos Valdes (caution) 88.
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez (Fredy Montero 66), Erik Friberg (Alvaro Fernandez 78), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Steve Zakuani, Mauro Rosales, O’Brian White (Nate Jaqua 66).
Union - Faryd Mondragon, Sheanon Williams, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Jordan Harvey, Keon Daniel, Stefani Miglioranzi (Danny Mwanga 60), Amobi Okugo, Kyle Nakazawa, Sebastien Le Toux, Carlos Ruiz (Justin Mapp 80).