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Sounders draw fifth-straight against MLS champs

It must have been a full moon because there were some bizarre things happening at Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field Saturday night as the Sounders FC drew 1-1 with the Columbus Crew.

SEATTLE – It must have been a full moon because there were some bizarre things happening at Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field Saturday night as the Sounders FC drew 1-1 with the Columbus Crew.

Freddie Ljungberg missed a first-half penalty kick, Seattle was given an indirect free kick from point-blank range on an obscure play in the second half and Tyrone Marshall was sent off in stoppage time. Those instances obscured the vision of an otherwise well-played battle of two teams coming into their own in the 2009 MLS season.

Alejandro Moreno scored for Columbus in the first half and Nate Jaqua scored the equalizer for the Sounders as they tied their fifth consecutive game in front of 29,126 in attendance at Qwest Field to move to 4-2-5 (17 points) on the season. The draw moves Columbus to 2-2-7 (13 points).

“I thought we had some good chances, but I was disappointed in terms of our team’s focus at times,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “I thought we got overly concerned about the referee, and weren’t concerned enough at times about our play. I’m a big believer that you’ve got so much energy to expend over 90 minutes and if you expend a lot of energy dealing with the referee, you’re not going to have that energy to deal with the game.”

The Crew grabbed the lead in the 12th minute on one such play. Columbus got a quick restart up the right side to Pat Noonan, who whipped in a cross just beyond the outstretched leg of Jhon Kennedy Hurtado retreating on defense. Moreno slipped in behind him with a diving header beating Kasey Keller to the far post for a 1-0 lead.

“We have to be more focused when the ball’s out of play,” said Keller, echoing Schmid’s sentament. “If teams play quick on us and we’re not ready, there’s no excuse for that.”

In the 32nd minute, Ljungberg got into the box on a give-and-go with Steve Zakuani and was pulled down by Jed Zayner to earn a penalty kick.

Ljungberg took the penalty, but missed to the left, leaving the Sounders trailing 1-0.

“It was a good play beforehand,” said Ljungberg, who acknowledged some dizzy spells through the first 25 minutes of the game as a result of his migraine suffered two weeks ago. “I hit it quite hard and it just curled around the corner. It happens sometimes.”

The Sounders went much more on the offensive at the start of the second half. After several attacking chances, Jaqua got the equalizer in the 58th minute.

Zakuani sent the ball in to Jaqua, who one-touched to Ljungberg 17 yards out in the middle of the penalty area. Ljungberg took a touch and lobbed the ball to the right to Jaqua, who blasted it into the far corner for his third goal of the year, evening the score at 1-1.

“It took a little while (for the ball to come down), I had to be patient on it. That’s one you usually hit a little early on it and it goes high. But I was able to wait on it and it was good,” Jaqua said.

Explained Ljungberg, “I just tried to lob it in to the penalty area and get him a shot on goal and it worked. It was a great, cracking goal. And we needed that goal.”

Seattle had several opportunities arise in the second half without taking the lead.

On one play, Columbus played the ball back to goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum who picked up the ball in his box and was whistled for a backpass, giving the Sounders an indirect free kick from six yards out at the right post. Fredy Montero touched a pass to Ljungberg for a shot from eight yards out, but it was cleared away be the Crew players stacked on the goal line and Seattle wasn’t able to generate any more on the play.

“That’s always a nightmare because you’re six yards from the goal, so the guy should be on the goal line, technically,” Schmid said. “It looks like a great scoring opportunity but it’s usually not because guys are four yards away from the ball, so if you put eight guys four yards away from the ball, it’s tough to hit it past anybody.”

Then things got more obscure in stoppage time. Keller prepared to play a free kick just outside the box after an apparent offside call when the head referee ran over to his assistant and changed the call. The assistant was not holding up his flag for an offside cal, but rather for a foul on Marshall that would result in his sending off.

“My understanding is that (Steven) Lenhart and Tyrone were jostling for position and the assistant referee came to the conclusion that Tyrone threw a punch,” Schmid said.

While Marshall agreed with his sending off, he lobbied after the game that Lenhart should have been sent off as well.

“If they want to call a red card and not give the other kid a red card, I don’t think that’s fair. If he’s going to give a red card I think both of us deserved a red card,” Marshall said.

It was Seattle’s fourth red card of the season, leaving Marshall out of the Sounders next game at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles against the MLS-leading Chivas USA.

The Crew extended their unbeaten streak to seven games (2-0-5) while Seattle is now unbeaten in their last six league games (1-0-5), though their last five games have all ended in draws.

“I think two or three of them, we’re happy with, but a couple of them we’re not,” Keller said. “We knew we should have beat Dallas, we knew we should have won today, we know we should have beat LA. So that’s frustrating. It’s better than losing, but at the same time, we can do better.”

The Sounders kick off at 7:30 Saturday night against Chivas USA.