Red cards are likely the most reviled things in soccer.
They hit their victims twice over when they eject a player from a match and give him an automatic suspension for the following match.
Saturday, the Sounders FC reached the halfway point of the season and were issued their first ejection of the season when Jhon Kennedy Hurtado was shown his second yellow card of the match. He was crushed, knowing that he left his team down a man for the final 40 minutes of a very winnable match against Toronto FC. Battling from behind the eight-ball, the Sounders FC not only withstood the pressure from Toronto, but gave it back, scoring in the 90th minute to give them the short-handed victory.
Teams aren’t always so lucky though.
In two other matches, Seattle’s opponents have been issued red cards and the Sounders capitalized with 1-0 road wins against the Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake.
In the club’s history, they are now 1-6-2 when they have been issued a red card.
In the aftermath, they will play Thursday night’s match against the New York Red Bulls without Hurtado. However, head coach Sigi Schmid has been rotating through center backs Hurtado, Jeff Parke and Patrick Ianni this season and has been impressed with the play of Zach Scott in reserve games. So he is prepared to shift someone else into the starting role on Thursday.
“It gives an opportunity for either Zach or Patrick Ianni to step in and start and play in the middle of the back for us,” Schmid said. “I thought Zach came in and played very well in the game in Toronto and Patrick has deputized at other times in the season and has done very well also. We’re very comfortable with our center backs. We feel good about the replacement side of it.”
Goalkeeper Kasey Keller shares Schmid’s feelings about the flexibility of the team and has not missed a beat regardless of who is playing in front of him.
“Obviously Jhon’s playing well and him and Parke aren’t conceding a whole lot of goals, but we feel very comfortable with the options we have depending on what decision Sigi makes,” he said.
If the Sounders are looking for sympathy, they won’t get it from the Red Bulls. Already playing without US National Teamers Juan Agudelo and Tim Ream and Mexico’s Rafa Marquez, who will meet in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final on Saturday, New York will also be without Thierry Henry after the team’s top scorer was ejected from New York’s match with the Portland Timbers over the weekend.
While the challenge of facing one of the world’s best players in front of a raucous home crowd will be missed, Parke doesn’t mind that Henry will be watching the match.
“You always want to play against the best players,” Parke said. “But I’m not going to lose too much sleep knowing that he’s not out there.”
Keller had a similar reaction to the news that Henry will be unavailable against the Sounders FC.
“He can play next week and I’ll be more than happy,” he said. “Those things happen and it’s always a disappointment, but the cool part about it is that our fans are coming to watch the Sounders. They aren’t coming to watch Thierry Henry. More importantly, our fans want to leave the game knowing that we have three points. We’ll see what happens.”
Although New York will be playing without their two designated players and two of their top young talents, the Sounders are not about to take the Red Bulls lightly. With the likes of Dwayne De Rosario, Joel Lindpere, Dane Richards and the possibility that Luke Rodgers will be in the lineup, New York is hardly devoid of talent that will be ready to step in and make a name for themselves.
“We know that the guys coming in are going to want to prove something. We have to be ready for that,” Keller said. “More importantly we need to play the way we are capable of playing and when we do that, I’m not too worried about who we are playing against.”
The Sounders are unbeaten in their last four matches and will look to build on that streak with two matches this week, concluding with a match Sunday at CenturyLink Field against the New England Revolution.