COLUMBUS, Ohio — After an abject first half, it looked like the Seattle Sounders were going to come home from the two-game road trip winless and looking for answers. With the help of some halftime adjustments, though, the Sounders not only found the equalizer but their second 96th minute game winner of the week. The 2-1 win over a depleted Columbus Crew team allowed them to end what was a three-month winless drought on the road.
“They tried to tire us out mentally, we couldn’t find any spaces between their defensive midfield,” Sounders right back Kelvin Leerdam said about the first half. “It was tough.”
In addition to welcoming back midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro to the starting lineup, the Sounders started two teenagers in Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez and Danny Leyva. Ocampo-Chavez was in the middle of a couple high quality chances early in the game — once setting up Lodeiro and the other on a breakaway — but quieted down after that. Leyva’s early involvement was not as positive, as he gave away a penalty in the 12th minute.
“It could have sunk a lot of young players,” Head coach Brian Schmetzer said of the penalty. “A lot of guys could have lost their confidence, but it didn’t and he actually played much better in the second half.”
The Sounders out-possessed the Crew in the first half 54-46, but only created four chances and one shot on goal. The Crew weren’t much better, but their defensive shape frustrated the Sounders.
“We made some tactical adjustments, we needed to get the ball from back to front,” Schemetzer said. “Caleb [Porter] had his game plan working.”
Whatever Schmetzer said at halftime appeared to have worked as the Sounders’ play improved throughout second half.
“There were guys that in their own way leading by example or leading by getting guys organized, Schmetzer said. “There was a lot of leadership on the field.”
The Sounders continued to control possession for the majority of the opening portion, and were able to create some chances. They were rewarded when Lodeiro was brought down in the Crew penalty box in the 56th minute. The Uruguayan slotted home the equalizing goal with his usual aplomb.
From there, both teams had chances, with Victor Rodriguez forcing a save in the 65th minute and Roman Torres hitting the woodwork in the 75th but the game seem destined for a unsatisfying point on the road. However, nine minutes of extra time provided the Sounders with two opportunities to grab all three points. Lodeiro earned a free kick in the 93rd minute which interestingly was taken by Kelvin Leerdam. His shot floated tantalizingly toward an open goal, but glanced off the crossbar. While Lodeiro is usually the designated free kick taker, Leerdam said the pair had a discussion about who should take the shot.
“He [Lodeiro] wanted to take it, but I told him I felt comfortable,” Leerdam said with a smile. “[Lodeiro] said, ‘hit it for the team.’”
Nico would get his chance in the 95th minute off of a throw-in from Saad Abdul-Salaam. The Sounders newest designated long-thrower launched the ball into the middle of the Crew penalty box, and made its way to Lodeiro off a Crew deflection. Lodeiro headed it perfectly across goal, leaving Bendik no chance, breaking Crew hearts and sending the traveling Sounders supporter into rapture.
“Saad’s throw in is like a cross for us, it’s like a free kick,” Lodeiro said. “I never imagined the ball would come to me as a small guy.”
Earlier in the game, Lodeiro had earned the fans wrath with the number of fouls he drew. Only a minute before, he was roundly booed after a foul which the fans saw as wasting time. With the two goals — and the game winner — he got the final word.
“I don’t think about the fouls, because it’s soccer.”
Notes: Victor Rodriguez was subbed out in the 83rd minute with what the team is calling “hamstring tightness.” He will be evaluated in Seattle. His injury was the cause of a major confrontation between the teams which contributed to the 9 minutes of extra time. A PRO referee source said that the incident alone added four and a half minutes to the added extra time.
In addition to the injury, referee Chris Penso reviewed the play for a potential red card, though he only issued a yellow to Lodeiro for his part in the melee. The Sounders were upset that Columbus did not play the ball out, though they are not required to.