SEATTLE — The math says the Seattle Sounders need to pick up every point possible at home. In that sense, Saturday’s 1-1 tie with the Chicago Fire was very much a failure. The Sounders did well to create plenty of chances and Clint Dempsey finally broke a regular-season scoring drought that stretched back nearly nine months, but the defense was very lucky to have Stefan Frei bail them out repeatedly.
The stat sheet suggests the two teams were pretty much even in terms of shots and chances created, but the Fire hit the crossbar once, had a pair of 1-v-1 breakaways and nearly won the game on a last gasp Alan Gordon chance that squirted just wide.
By the end of the weekend, the Sounders will be at least 10 points out of the playoffs and don’t even have games in hand on most of the teams they’re chasing. Dropping two points at home to a team coming off a midweek game and not playing particularly well themselves is not a great way to start any sort of charge up the standings.
The Fire got off to an, ahem, blazing start when Aleksander Katai scored on a shot from about 25 yards out. Nicolas Lodeiro — who was again deployed ostensibly as a No. 8 — appeared to be slow to rotate and Katai was allowed an essentially unchallenged shot. Frei got a hand to it, but not enough to keep it from hitting the back of the net.
To their credit, the Sounders reacted well and created several good chances shortly thereafter. It all finally came good when Harry Shipp put in a cross to Will Bruin, who got it to Dempsey for an easy tap-in. The goal not only tied the score, but also allowed Dempsey to score his first regular-season goal since Sept. 27, 2017 and tie Fredy Montero for the most goals in Sounders history.
Not Dempsey's prettiest goal, but it'll due. 1-1 Seattle. pic.twitter.com/hXGR9b67Gk— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) June 24, 2018
The Sounders had several good chances to get the winner. The best came when Cristian Roldan, who started as a right back, found himself with the ball and facing a goal that was noticeably missing its goalkeeper. Roldan managed to place a shot that missed the sea of red jerseys in front of him, but it was too high. Anything lower would have almost certainly scored, either on its own or through Dempsey, who was sitting unmarked at the back post.
The Fire, though, had the best chances at finding a winner. Katai hit the crossbar on a shot from about 18 yards in the 74th, just a minute later Frei stopped Elliot Collier on a close-range shot and then he saved a Nemanja Nikolic shot off a breakaway in the 80th.
For all his hard work, Frei was rewarded by taking a shoulder and elbow to the head courtesy of Alan Gordon on the game’s final play. It was unclear at press time if Frei had suffered a concussion.
This is the play that ends the game. pic.twitter.com/mO6eIf3QvV— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) June 24, 2018
- Osvaldo Alonso looks slow: It was great that Alonso completed all 53 of his passes, but the vast majority of them were square or backward. More relevantly, he was tasked with being the only true defensive midfielder while Lodeiro roamed forward and just doesn’t seem up for that anymore. On the lead-up to the Collier chance, Alonso got absolutely traffic-coned as the Fire just sliced through the midfield.
- The offense created chances: It’s of little solace that nearly halfway through the season that we’re even talking about creating chances, but here we are. The 19 shots were promising, that seven of them were on goal and seven were from inside the box also suggest the Sounders got quality looks. That they’ve only scored multiple goals in a home win once all year, though, suggest this remains a huge problem.
- Better hope Frei is OK: From the look of the replay, it sure looked as though he may have been knocked out. How bad the injury really was we’re left to speculate as the whistle blew the game dead by the time he was back on his feet and he didn’t talk to the media postgame. Schmetzer only said they weren’t sure if he had suffered a concussion. If Frei did suffer a concussion, that would almost certainly mean Bryan Meredith starting an absolute must-win game at home against the Portland Timbers. I don’t think anyone wants that.
Sounders (4-2-3-1): Frei; Nouhou, Marshall, Kim, C. Roldan; Lodeiro, Alonso (A. Roldan 84’); Rodriguez (Wolff 69’), Dempsey, Shipp (McCrary 72’); Bruin.
Fire (4-3-3): Sanchez; Corrales, Vincent, Campbell, Campos; Schweinsteiger, McCarty, Bronico; Katai, Nikolic, Solignac.
Katai (Bronico) 9’
Dempsey (Shipp, Bruin) 22’
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