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Sounders vs. Sporting KC, recap: Body-slammed

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Sounders fall 2-1 to Sporting KC and their lead atop the Western Conference is suddenly precarious.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

SEATTLE — The Western Conference race just got quite a bit tighter. After surrendering a 4th minute goal, the Seattle Sounders were able to fight back and equalize in the second half only to concede a late goal to fall 2-1 to Sporting KC on Saturday.

The match started rather nightmarishly, with Remi Walter scoring from the edge of the penalty area when the Sounders failed to clear their lines. Through 30 minutes, at least, the Sounders simply looked all out of sorts.

But a formation change allowed them to get back into the match over the final 15 minutes of the half and they came out firing in the second half. Nicolas Benezet eventually equalized in the 58th minute — about four minutes after SKC goalkeeper Tim Melia body-slammed Cristian Roldan and was only shown a yellow card — and the Sounders looked poised to pull ahead.

Unfortunately, it was Sporting KC who struck next. Roger Espinoza was allowed to drive forward from deep in his own end and then found Johnny Russell streaking in from the right wing. Russell calmly finished past a sliding Stefan Frei, the seven straight game in which he’s scored and his sixth goal in seven career games against the Sounders.

The Sounders continued to press forward and nearly found the equalizer through Cristian Roldan, but his stoppage-time shot from about 10 yards out rang off the crossbar.

The loss cuts the Sounders’ lead atop the Western Conference to three points, but Sporting KC have a game in hand. The Sounders also lead Sporting KC by one win and are +3 better in goal-difference.

Key moments

4 — GOAL! Gadi Kinda feeds Johnny Russell with a ball that puts him in on the wing. Frei is able to palm away Russell’s cross, but it falls to Kinda. His shot is blocked by Alex Roldan and Cristian Roldan seemed to be in position to clear it. But Luis Martins beat him to it and laid it off for Remi Walter, whose shot from about 19 yards out beat Frei. SKC 1-0

15 - Sounders get their first decent look but Benezet’s shot from the penalty spot is deflected and easily saved.

36 — João Paulo gets a yellow card for dissent, and will miss the next game with yellow-card accumulation.

37 — Roldan breaks into the open field but his shot is right at Melia

41 — Roldan looks like he’s taken down in box. But replays show that it probably would have been a little soft.

54 — A ball is sent into the box where Cristian Roldan is effectively boxing out Tim Melia, who is still able to get a hand to it and Graham Zusi clears out the ball. Melia then grabs Roldan by the shoulder and body slams him into the net. Alex Roldan is shown a yellow for then shoving Melia, who is eventually shown a yellow after the play is reviewed.

58 — GOAL! João Paulo sends in a corner that Cristian Roldan heads towards goal and Benezet finishes. 1-1

64 — Roldan gets a clean look at a header off a João Paulo free kick but Melia is able to make the save and it’s cleared just ahead of Xavier Arrega getting to rebound.

79 — GOAL! Espinoza breaks into open field and finds Russell streaking in from the right wing. He slots it past Frei. SKC 2-1

90+ — Roldan gets an open look from inside the box but his shot rings off crossbar.

Three takeaways

Body slamming isn’t brutal, apparently: Journalists are allowed to submit questions to the referees in writing after the game. Unfortunately, there’s no opportunity for in-person follow-up unless the referee wants it. In this case, Ismael Elfath was only interested in submitting his answers in writing. Essentially, it was determined that Melia’s actions did not rise to the level of “brutality” and Roldan had been ruled to have committed a foul, negating a potential penalty. I’m sympathetic to the idea that no penalty was warranted, but not sending off Melia seems inexcusable. It will be interesting to see what the Disciplinary Committee decides now.

Not why they lost: Obviously, that’s a potentially game-changing decision. As frustrating as that is, the Sounders weren’t saying that was why they lost. The slow start, the inability to put away their chances and conceding late were the bigger concerns. They’re not wrong. In fact, the whole situation seemed to provide a spark to the Sounders and they had ample opportunities to pull ahead. Hopefully, they can use this to help them finish strong.

Fight until the end: A win — heck, even a tie — would have effectively ended the Western Conference race. Now, the Sounders probably need to figure out how to win at least two of their final three games and that still won’t guarantee them the top seed. Next up is LAFC on the road, a team that has seemingly gotten hot. After that, the Sounders host the LA Galaxy, another team that has stopped a late-season slide. Finally, the Sounders will close out the season against a Vancouver Whitecaps team that has been playing as well as anyone over the past couple months. It’s not going to easy.

Did you see that?!?

Look, if anyone knows a body-slam when they see it, it’s Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and, well...

He said what?!?

One stat to tell the tale

8 — The Sounders have now failed to win 8 of 16 home games this year, tied for the most in franchise history and the most since they went 7-2-6 at home in 2009.

Poll

Man of the Match

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Nico Benezet
    (116 votes)
  • 42%
    Cristian Roldan
    (178 votes)
  • 20%
    João Paulo
    (86 votes)
  • 9%
    Alex Roldan
    (38 votes)
418 votes total Vote Now