SEATTLE – The MLS season opener for the Sounders FC has never lacked for drama and Saturday night when they hosted the Montreal Impact at CenturyLink Field was no different.
There, the Sounders ran into an Impact side content with defending for 90 minutes in front of the 38,998 opening night crowd. Yet it was a Davy Arnaud goal in the 35th minute that proved to be the difference in the match as the Sounders dropped their opening match for just the second time in five years in Major League Soccer.
Given 55 minutes to find the equalizer, the Sounders twice were denied by the goal frame and struggled to crack Montreal’s defensive posture as the Sounders fell to 0-1-0 to start the season.
“It’s disappointing because we always want to win when we’re at home,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “At the end of the day, I think we can play better. We carried the game, but they caught us on the counter. We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be.”
The Sounders controlled much of the possession in the first half, but were unable to convert that possession into goal-scoring chances.
In the 25th minute, they did find themselves with a quick-strike opportunity, though. Mario Martinez cut a left-footed ball to the near post for Eddie Johnson, but his first-time shot missed outside the near post.
Then, after a quick change of possession Montreal went on the attack and Felipe Martins found Arnaud, who chipped Michael Gspurning for the goal and the 1-0 lead in the 35th minute.
“We were very open in the middle and he got the ball in the middle. I wanted to close the distance to him and most of the time he would take a second touch and shoot, but he scored a very good goal,” Gspurning said. “He chipped the ball over my six-foot-six, so there’s nothing more than I can do but shake his hand. It was a very good goal.”
In the second half, Gspurning was put to the test again by Arnaud, this time on a ball from former Sounder Sanna Nyassi, as he sent a ball in from the left side and Arnaud nearly added another goal in the 64th minute only to have it swiped away by Gspurning for one of his four saves on the night.
In the 66th minute, the Sounders found themselves snake-bit when they found the woodwork for the first of two times in the second half. Johnson found Brad Evans at the top of the box and Evans ripped a shot past Montreal goalkeeper Troy Perkins, but it hit off the upright and back off of the foot of Perkins, but Seattle couldn’t get to the rebound.
Then in the 81st minute, second-half substitute Alex Caskey took a pass in the box and dropped it to Johnson for a close-range opportunity, but Johnson lifted the shot over Perkins and off the crossbar.
Seattle continued to press for the equalizer in the second half, but wound up downed by the first-half goal from Arnaud.
“I think we finished the game well, but we didn’t start the game well,” defender Zach Scott said. “I don’t think we came with the urgency that we should have starting the game. Our possession was good, but I think possession with intent could have been a little better.”
The Sounders outshot Montreal 15-9 on the night, but were only able to force three saves out of Perkins while Gspurning made four. They held nearly 60 percent of the possession, too, but in the end were unable to get the result that they were hoping for out of their long-awaited season opener.
“Anytime you get slapped in the face like this, hopefully then you rise from that and you become a little more determined, a little more motivated, a little more focused,” Schmid said. “This, maybe, is a good little wake-up call.”
The Sounders won’t play an MLS match until March 16 when they host the Portland Timbers at CenturyLink Field. In between, they will face Tigres UANL in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday in Monterrey, Mexico, and March 12 at CenturyLink Field.
Sounders FC – None.
Impact – Davy Arnaud (Felipe Martins) 35.
Sounders FC – Brad Evans (caution) 17.
Impact – Andrea Pisanu (caution) 64.
Sounders FC – Michael Gspurning, DeAndre Yedlin, Zach Scott, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez (Servando Carrasco 84), Mario Martinez, Andy Rose (Alex Caskey 62), Brad Evans, Steve Zakuani (Sammy Ochoa 68), Mauro Rosales, Eddie Johnson.
Impact – Troy Perkins, Jeb Brovsky, Matteo Ferrari, Alessandro Nesta, Hassoun Camara (Dennis Iapichino 84), Patrice Bernier, Justin Mapp (Sanna Nyassi 46), Felipe Martins, Davy Arnaud, Andrea Pisanu (Callum Mallace 69), Marco Di Vaio.