Playing a few days after a trip to Trinidad in 100-degree heat without being entirely at full strength is not exactly a recipe for success. No, this was not a standout performance from the Seattle Sounders, but it was the result they needed. A 1-1 tie against FC Dallas keeps the Sounders in good position to get a Top 3 seed in the Western Conference and sets them up nicely for the stretch run.
The bigger story was the return of Steve Zakuani to the starting lineup. I'm sure Zakuani would be willing to admit that it was not exactly his best performance, but he absolutely showed signs of being his old self. The assist he had to Mauro Rosales was vintage-Zakuani and should give us all hope that he could be very close to full strength by the time the playoffs come around. It would have been a little much to ask, but finishing that 1-v-1 Fredy Montero gave him right before coming off would have been a pretty amazing way to cap the performance.
Other than Zakuani's highlight, the Sounders were dangerous enough to keep Dallas honest but never really looked poised to take all three points. Brad Evans had a good look at a header in the 35th minute, but Kevin Hartman made a great save to keep it level. Once it got to the second half, the heat really seemed to be taking its toll.
I know people wanted to see either Mario Martinez or Sammy Ochoa in this one, but it seemed like Sigi Schmid saw the writing on the wall and was more concerned with locking up a point. Hard to blame him.
SEA - Mauro Rosales (Steve Zakuani) 20
DAL - Jackson (Blas Perez) 32
FC Dallas - Kevin Hartman, Jair Benitez, Matt Hedges (Hernan Pertuz 58), George John, Zach Loyd, Brek Shea (Carlos Rodriguez 86), Andrew Jacobson (Daniel Hernandez 63), Julian de Guzman, David Ferreira, Jackson, Blas Perez.
Substitutes Not Used: Chris Seitz, Scott Sealy, James Marcelin, Bryan Leyva.
TOTAL SHOTS: 24 (Jackson 7); SHOTS ON GOAL: 7 (Blas Perez, Jackson 2); FOULS: 17 (Jackson 4); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 6 (David Ferreira 6); SAVES: 3 (Kevin Hartman 3).
Seattle Sounders FC - Michael Gspurning, Adam Johansson, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez, Mauro Rosales, Osvaldo Alonso (Servando Carrasco 78), Christian Tiffert, Brad Evans (Marc Burch 88), Fredy Montero, Steve Zakuani (Alex Caskey 66).
Substitutes Not Used: Josh Ford, Mario Martinez, Sammy Ochoa, Zach Scott.
TOTAL SHOTS: 11 (Fredy Montero 5); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (Mauro Rosales, Steve Zakuani, Brad Evans, Fredy Montero); FOULS: 20 (Fredy Montero 6); OFFSIDES: 4 (Fredy Montero 2); CORNER KICKS: 3 (Mauro Rosales 2); SAVES: 6 (Michael Gspurning 6).
SEA - Fredy Montero (caution) 30
DAL - George John (caution) 42
DAL - Jackson (caution) 56
SEA - Leo Gonzalez (caution) 72
Referee: Sorin Stoica
Referee's Assistants: Kermit Quisenberry, Jonathan Johnson
4th Official: Hilario Grajeda
Time of Game: 1:54
Weather: Sunny and 99 degrees
Seattle Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid
We've had to go through this week with the traveling, and so forth, and the early morning airport calls, the lack of sleep the guys have had to deal with... I was very pleased at what we showed. It shows our character and morale. We knew we have to hang on at times, try to get as many fresh bodies as we could out there. We didn't expect [Osvaldo Alonso] to get hurt, so that forced a change on us that we didn't want to make, but I was really pleased with our character.
It has been 500 days since Zakuni last started for you, talk about what he's done:
Steve shows that he still has that explosion, the ability to beat people. As he gains confidence hopefully those kind of opportunities will occur more often in the game. He's shown that he can still do it. It was a tremendous assist Now its just a matter of gaining game fitness and the ability to do that on a repetitive level.
On a game like this, how important was it to get that first goal:
Vital for us to get, I wasn't happy that we gave up one at the other end because I think that we defended as well as we could have but that's the way it is sometimes. But for us to get the first goal here away from home was very important, especially considering our fatigue factor.
On Micheal Gspurning's play:
Michael was very good. The save he makes going to his right in the second half is a huge save. That's what you need from goalkeepers. They come up with saves at big times of the game. I coached Kevin Hartman for years. He's a guy that's done that in the years I coached him many times and Michael has done that for us this year as well.
A little bit of a different formation for you guys, what do you think on the way that worked out:
It worked out alright. It was a way I felt we had to play based on our personnel and what we had here today, so it worked out alright. Obviously for a guy like Adam Johansson who has never played in this kind of heat before or a guy like Christian Tiffert whose never played in this kind of heat either, for them psychologically it was even a more difficult game at times. Overall I think we did alright. Fredy Montero was active and occupied the two center backs. Sometimes we needed a little more support from the wingers but if we play this formation more often we'll work that out.
On the fatigue factor, especially in the second half:
I think it showed. When you look at the stats of the game, it showed in terms of us winning less duels in the second half, just not being able to get the balls, not being able to really generate as many attacks in the second half that got into the final third as we did in the first half. That was just a reflection of just tired legs.
Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Mauro Rosales
General thoughts on the game:
The heat played a big part in the game. It was tough for both teams. We couldn't play our best match. We couldn't. We tried, but it was too hot here. We were coming from Trinidad and Tobago and a ten-hour flight with delays with all this stuff. We did a great job trying to win this game and to play to the same level as them.
On his goal and the assist by Steve Zakuani:
It was a great assist from Stevie [Steve Zakuani]. I was just trying to put the ball in the net. It was good for me. I'm not used to scoring. I'm used to making the assist, but it was a goal for us and now we just have to keep going.
On the return of Steve Zakuani and his play in the match:
It was great to see him back with the team and on a good level. He was working very hard to come back and you could see the frustration with him a few months ago when he couldn't be the best player that he really wanted to be. Now we're very happy for him. We'll have to keep supporting him to come back to the level he wants.
We have to get him to the same level of confidence that he had in the past, but it has already been a great come back. Playing and getting assists... the minutes he is gaining game by game. He's going to get past this and get back on his same level.
Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Steve Zakuani
Thoughts on the first half and the progression of the game:
We didn't have enough of the ball. We were saying to each other, ‘right now we can't keep the ball.' We were just clearing it and clearing it and giving it back to Dallas. I didn't get many touches, but we knew that when we got it we had to take care of it and we did.
We had a few chances... a good header from Mauro's [ Mauro Rosales] cross and Fredy [Fredy Montero] got it a couple times. [Christain Tiffert] was finding balls and Alonso began to find the ball. I began to find the ball too. I knew that in this heat I might just get one or two chances to run. When it came, I made sure to take it. I looked up and saw Mauro making a good run at the back post. He was free and it was up to me to find him. I was able to do that.
The first 15 minutes weren't good. We ended the first half very well. And the second half was just about getting a point and getting back to Seattle to regroup. We'll take that. This isn't an easy place to come play.
On Mauro's goal and his assist:
I was just happy we scored. It didn't hit me until half time that it was my first start. It was good to get back on the board in terms of an assist, but I was honestly just disappointed that we didn't get to the half at 1-0.
On what he has to do moving forward:
Play again. Keep building. I'm just going to have to keep training and training to get my sharpness back again. The run I made I could have made, you know, 10 times. My fitness was really good and my goal is to be able to do that run a few times each half. That's what I bring to the team. I just need to play my role. We've had a good run. We still haven't lost in a very long time. September should be a very good month for us and then we'll be pushing on into the playoffs. I just want to be there to play my role.
FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman
Opening thoughts on the game...
"It was a very open game. Both teams were attacking; both teams tried to play possession and tried to play on the counter. Zakuani looked great, very quick. It was hot, muggy, everything you can think of out there. Second half, I thought the first couple of minutes we started off a little bit slow, but after that, we really created a lot of opportunities for ourselves. Both teams battled for every ball and we put ourselves in position to pick up another goal, a couple of the balls were right at the keeper, which never makes it easy. We also had a header that I thought was in and was right at the keeper, and there were a couple other great saves. Defensively, I thought it was an excellent contest between two teams that were trying to win."
On Matt Hedges exiting the game early...
"Sometimes when you are playing, you get an elbow or knee, we've all been there when we get shots to the solar plexus and it hurts. Matt is such a competitor. He kept fighting and started to make some uncharacteristic types of mistakes, giving balls away, tripping over the ball, almost felt like he was going to create a goal for them. Then when he went down, if you didn't notice, his stomach was turning inside out, he was throwing up. So when he came off, he was very, very white, very pale and I think he will be fine. I think he's probably scared as much, but we're taking tomorrow off, Tuesday off, we have Leon on Sunday, this will be a really good time for him to catch his breath as well."
Jackson seemed to have a good night, can you talk about his performance
"Jackson has that explosive speed, something that you really can't teach players and as the game wears down he's got the high level conditioning. I thought he started running a little bit more on Gonzalez and their defenders, but he gave us everything he had. He's more of a flank player. He's not the kind of player that is going to score from outside of the box very often."
FC Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman
Talk about the break coming up...
We're not excited about the front-loaded schedule, when we had so many injuries during that period. It would have been a lot nicer to have had breaks back then and really ramp it up as these guys have gotten back and be in a better spot in the playoff race. That's not how things have aligned themselves so we're going to take this break, try and do the best we can with it and make sure we are ready, mentally and physically, for some really important games that we have coming up.
Talk about your save on Seattle's Brad Evans late in the first half...
Fortunately the majority of the opportunities they had tonight were kind of right at me... right into my bread basket. That just happened to be one where he put it somewhere where it was savable. I was able to push it up and over the bar... keep it at 1-1 going into the half. On the road sometimes, it has been nice going into the half tied with a chance to come back out and pick up some points. The way we looked at it was ‘we're excited with a tie at the half on the road but now we're at home and we have our fans behind us.' We really did leave everything out there. We continued to push. Our guys looked pretty fatigued. We had the better of the play in the second half but unfortunately we were not able to get that second goal. We just have to move forward and concentrate on playing Vancouver in two weeks. That match demands our full attention. It's a huge game for us. Winning that match certainly gives us an opportunity that we wouldn't have otherwise.
FC Dallas forward Blas Perez
General thoughts on the game:
We thought having home-field advantage with this kind of weather would be more advantageous than it was but it also affected us a little bit. This was an important game for us, knowing we had an opportunity in our hands to gain some points on Vancouver and we didn't get it done.
On missed opportunities:
We had a lot of opportunities. We couldn't finish them and we didn't have the right last touch. Myself, I had two opportunities that I normally capitalize on. I know that had I been 100 percent physically, those are goals that I make. Even then you go onto the pitch and give 100 percent of yourself to help your team win and these are games that make you go home sad.
On returning for a full 90 minutes:
It gives me confidence. I'd missed time with my injury and then with what happened, with my dad, but I felt good. I felt a desire to play hard for my team and I felt like I did that today. It's a process. Little by little I'll get better.
FC Dallas defender George John
General thoughts on the match:
It was a pretty good battle. We had the better of the play in the second half and were unlucky not to get a second goal there at the end. That's just how it goes some times. We got one point and we're just going to have to move on from it. We have a break coming up now and hopefully we come back fresh from the break and ready to win some games and make playoffs.
Talk about playing against Fredy Montero:
He's a good player. He's a smart player, crafty, definitely. Right when you think you have him, he kind of twirls out of something. I always enjoy playing against him. It was a good battle out there tonight. We play them again later in the year so I will be looking forward to it.