BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. - The Sounders FC knew that the Chicago Fire would come out strong in support of interim head coach Frank Klopas in their first match since previous head coach Carlos de los Cobos was fired.
However, they dwarfed that early intensity and dominated the first 25 minutes of play. The next 20 minutes, in turn, were controlled by the Fire. Then, like two heavyweights who had slugged it out for 10 rounds, the second half of the match saw hopeful effort after hopeful effort, but no real threats to break the scoreless draw and that’s the way it would finish at Toyota Park.
The Sounders had three shots on goal through the first 17 minutes of the match, but couldn’t get another one through the rest of the match. Meanwhile, Kasey Keller finished with five saves for his fourth clean sheet of the season as the Sounders moved to 5-4-6 on the season.
“Obviously we’re happy to get a point. I thought we did a good job defending, Kasey had to come up with some big saves,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “But at the end of the day we’re playing a team that’s motivated, we’re playing a new coach, and to come away with a point is not that bad.”
Seattle got out to a hot start, putting pressure on Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson with vigor in the early-going. The Sounders had perhaps their best chance in the sixth minute when Mauro Rosales got up the right side and turned a left-footed ball into the box. It cleared the head of Nate Jaqua, but found Lamar Neagle at the far post for a header, but Johnson was right there to make the point-blank save.
“I kinda headed it right at him. If I put one of those anywhere else and you’ve got a goal,” said Neagle, who played 90 minutes in his first start. “We knew they were going to come out hard, having a new coach. We just wanted to match that, so we came out hard as well.”
Neagle nearly beat Johnson just three minutes later, working his way around Bratislav Ristic and blasting a shot from the left side, only to have Johnson use all of his 6-foot-3 frame and every inch of his reach to parry the bar over the crossbar for the save.
Seattle had their final shot on goal in the 17th minute when Nate Jaqua fired a shot from 25 yards out, but it caromed off a defender and into Johnson’s awaiting arms for the save.
They had other opportunities throughout the match, but couldn’t find the frame. Fredy Montero, who came on as a sub in the second half, lasered a free kick that just missed outside the right post and Brad Evans got a glancing header off a ball from the right side, but couldn’t get enough of it and it fell wide.
On the other side of the field, Keller was in supreme form, keeping everything Chicago could throw his way out of his net.
In the 27th minute, Daniel Paladini looked to have broken the tie with his shot from distance toward the upper-V, but Keller got his fingertips to it sprawling out to his right to parry it away for the save.
“I got a good jump on it, I kind of lost it a little bit but I thought the only place it could go was there, so I took a gamble but I had a pretty good idea of where it was going to go,” Keller said. “Like I said, I got a jump and fortunately the ball was somewhere where I could reach it.”
Just four minutes later, it was Paladini again, but this time Keller made a great effort to knock the ball down and then smother it before Cristian Nazarit could pounce on the rebound.
Seattle will return home to face the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday at Qwest Field in their first meeting since the Whitecaps returned to Major League Soccer.
Sounders FC - None.
Fire - None.
Sounders FC - Mike Fucito (caution) 33; Tyson Wahl (caution) 36;
Fire - Diego Chaves (caution) 46+;
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Jeff Parke, Tyson Wahl, Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Mauro Rosales (Roger Levesque 66), Lamar Neagle, Mike Fucito (Servando Carrasco 81), Nate Jaqua (Fredy Montero 53).
Fire - Sean Johnson, Bratislav Ristic, Yamith Cuesta, Cory Gibbs, Gonzalo Segares, Daniel Paladini, Logan Pause, Dominic Oduro, Corben Bone Gaston Puerari 67), Diego Chaves (Patrick Nyarko 54), Christian Nazarit (Orr Barouch 78).