Seattle Sounders 0, Sporting Kansas City 1: Shorthanded Sounders drop MLS season opener

SEATTLE – A costly red card and fortuitous skip off rain-soaked turf pushed the Seattle Sounders to a 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Sunday at CenturyLink Field, just the third time the Sounders have lost in eight MLS regular season openers.

Defender Nuno Andre Coelho picked up the game-winner in the 72nd minute on a right-footed blast from 25 yards out for Sporting Kansas City, who played up a man for the entire second half after Sounders defender Oniel Fisher was sent off for a reckless tackle in the 41st minute.

Sporting Kansas City are now unbeaten in their past four games against the Sounders, who played without two regular starters in the lineup and couldn’t find the final touch after Fisher’s red card. The loss snapped a seven-game unbeaten streak at home for the Sounders across MLS regular season and play and postseason, dating back to 2015.

Starting in place of injured veteran Tyrone Mears (quad strain), Fisher was shown a straight red card late in the first half for leaving his feet on a tackle on SKC midfielder Connor Hallisey, the first Sounders red card since Gonzalo Pineda was shown the door against Houston on Apr. 4, 2015. Although Fisher did not make contact with Hallisey on the play, the ferocity of the tackle was enough for the second-year defender from Jamaica to earn his first career red card from referee Alan Kelly.

SKC controlled much of the flow after that and capitalized off the foot of Coelho, who skipped a shot from distance past Stefan Frei as a late afternoon rainstorm engulfed the stadium and left the field slick for the final 30 minutes of the match.

The Sounders also played without injured starting midfielder Erik Friberg, who who had not cleared the league’s concussion protocol after colliding with center back Chad Marshall last week against Club America. Second-year midfielder Cristian Roldan earned the start in place of Friberg, giving the Sounders a decidedly younger look on the right side with Fisher (23 years old), Roldan (20) and 21-year old Homegrown forward Jordan Morris, making his first start in MLS play.

Undeterred by that youth, the Sounders managed to create a wealth of scoring chances before Fisher was sent off. Morris nearly scored his first MLS goal in the ninth minute off a nifty buildup through the midfield from Clint Dempsey and Andreas Ivanschitz, but his shot on the break skied over the bar.

Dempsey also had a dangerous free kick from 25 yards out parried aside by SKC goalkeeper Tim Melia in the 15th minute, and Marshall’s header off the ensuing corner kick caromed harmlessly off the crossbar.

Despite playing down a man, the Sounders nearly found a goal in 53rd minute, when Melia tipped a shot from Ivanschitz off the bar and to the waiting foot of forward Nelson Valdez, but the Paraguayan international couldn’t put a tough, truncated bicycle kick on frame.

The goal was the first in the short MLS career for Coelho, who played the entirety of his career in Europe before signing with SKC in January.

The Sounders also lost their home openers against the Montreal Impact in 2013 and the LA Galaxy in 2011.

Seattle will play its first road game of the new season at Real Salt Lake on March 12.

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