SEATTLE — Despite an early goal and playing strong defense for 93 minutes, the Seattle Sounders were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw with Orlando City on Wednesday. Orlando’s equalizing goal — a Scott Sutter header from a Kaka free kick — came on the match’s final play.
It wasn’t certain that the Seattle Sounders would have a completely first-choice squad out against Orlando City on Wednesday, considering they had played away to New York City last weekend and travel to Portland on Sunday. With no Oniel Fisher or Jordy Delem due to Caribbean Cup action and a busy week, head coach Brian Schmetzer slotted Cristian Roldan in at right back and Nouhou at left back ahead of the away match in Portland.
The first half got off to a fast start, and both teams had minor chances within the first five minutes. Jordan Morris nearly connected with a deep ball over the top from Cristian Roldan, but his touch was too heavy and Joe Bendik was able to gobble it up. Minutes later, a defensive mistake by the Sounders allowed Carlos Rivas to get in behind and go 1-on-1 with Stefan Frei. Rivas’ final ball was a bit too weak, and Frei managed to block and collect it.
The match stayed even for the next ten-plus minutes, but it was the 18th minute that saw the deadlock finally broken. Nicolas Lodeiro curled the ball in from the left side of midfield, around Orlando defender Jonathan Spector, and to the middle of the box to find Will Bruin, who calmly trapped the ball and slipped it past the onrushing Bendik to put the Sounders on the board.
Aside from the Sounders’ goal, the rest of the half stayed even. Both sides failed to capitalize on defensive mistakes, though the Sounders came close through Bruin again and Orlando had a couple of near-chances in the Seattle box. It’s hard to say which team had the better chances, but Seattle seemed to have more control of the match. The Sounders held onto their slim lead going into halftime, and had to feel confident a second goal was coming.
The second half kicked off with more of the same, and the Sounders had the better looks in the opening minutes. A swift attack up the left through Nouhou - and one of his best moments in a rather solid first MLS start - nearly created danger in the box but the left back’s cross was blocked near the end line.
The intensity finally ratcheted up a bit in the 57th minute when Morris flew into the box after a one-two with Dempsey, but his touch was too heavy and Bendik cleaned up the opportunity. Not long after, Morris made himself dangerous again, exploding down the right wing and beating his defender before putting a cross into the box that Bruin backheeled to Dempsey, whose shot was saved. Osvaldo Alonso nearly had a chance on the rebound, but his shot was also blocked before finally being cleared by Orlando.
Orlando’s best chance of the half came soon after, when the Sounders defense failed to deal with a dangerous ball into the box that Rivas got a touch on. Fortunately, Frei managed to block it with his leg in a save as reactionary as it was good. Dempsey got his second big chance of the night not long after when Lodeiro lobbed in a beautiful pass to him, but his shot was weak and easily saved by Bendik.
Things got even more tense from there, as the Sounders, in particular, charged down the pitch constantly. They had a hard time breaking down the defense like they did on Bruin’s goal, however, and few chances would be found from this point on.
The home fans enjoyed Orlando’s second substitution of the night, when former Portland and Toronto FC midfielder Will Johnson came on for Giles Barnes. Johnson did what he does best within minutes of entering the pitch: earning a yellow card for a reckless tackle on Ozzie Alonso.
Seattle also introduced Joevin Jones in the 74th minute for Bruin, keeping Nouhou at left back and shifting Morris to a more central position. Jones had a pretty quick impact on the left wing, but his cross unfortunately found the legs of an OCSC defender before it could make it all the way in. Orlando’s late push yielded a dangerous chance when Johnson took a fairly good shot from very deep--but Frei was again equal to the shot.
Little happened until late into stoppage time, when a dubious foul (and yellow card) was called against Roman Torres near the right side of the Sounders 18-yard box. Kaka’s free kick found Scott Sutter at the near post, and, despite being surrounded by green shirts, freely headed the ball past Frei to equalize with the last touch of the match.