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Fouls, yellow cards disrupt marquee matchup

Ismael Elfath issued eight yellow cards in 0-0 tie.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Seattle Sounders FC Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

SEATTLE — A battle of MLS heavyweights didn’t produce any knockout blows.

Unless you count some of the antics off the ball.

Referee Ismael Elfath issued eight yellow cards — six in the first half — among the 28 fouls called during the match. Perhaps unsurprisingly, an intense match through the first 45 minutes seemed to run out of steam in the second half.

The Sounders and LAFC did manage to create a fair amount of chances during the match, but weren’t able to put any balls past either keeper, and thus the high-profile match wasn’t truly able to create any fireworks beyond the post anthem-opening.

“Little bit of a mixed bag there.” Sounders Coach Brian Schmetzer said. “I don’t know what the expected goals are but they had a lot of clear chances because we were trying to find a goal at that end of the field. I wasn’t real pleased about that.”

Schmetzer noted that he thought the Sounders focused a bit too much on the fouls called by Elfath, and thus weren’t able to reestablish the flow they’d established through much of the first half.

“I think the game was a little disjointed because of the fouling because of the tempo,” Schmetzer said. “We’d talked about trying to create more tempo, more momentum. It’s hard sometimes where there are a bunch fouls and yellow cards and stoppages and delays. It was challenging.”

Right back Alex Roldan — one of the yellow card recipients — said the stoppages made it difficult to find a rhythm in the match.

“It’s tough to get yellow cards early in the game,” Roldan said. “The rhythm is gone when there’s fouls left and right and the ref is stopping everything. We couldn’t get into a rhythm offensively. It’s just kind of the way the game went. There wasn’t really a flow.”

Goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who was involved in one of the many dust-ups after LAFC defender Aaron Long kicked a ball that Frei had clear control of, said the Sounders need to be better about channeling their emotions.

“It cannot turn into something emotional, and you’ve got to keep that in check,” Frei said. “One of the examples of that is a free kick they have in the first half where we are too focused on the referee and they play a short ball quickly, catch us off guard and it leads to a dangerous situation.”

Schmetzer said that the team should use their play on the field as motivation, as opposed to focusing on the officiating.

“Did we worry too much about the referee, something that’s not in our control, did that get us fired up?” Schmetzer asked. “Why doesn’t our soccer fire us up?”

Still, Frei said he wasn’t especially surprised about the amount of fouls given the high-profile nature of the match between teams holding three of the major trophies available (LAFC: MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield; Sounders: Concacaf Champions League).

“Both teams were aggressive because it was a big game and that’s why you saw a lot of tackles and cards flying out there,” Frei said.

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