New York 2 : 2 Sounders FC
by Chris Ballard at the Red Bull Arena
Recently acquired striker Sebastian Le Toux scored on his debut at Red Bull Arena, but that was not enough to take all three points in a see-saw game played in intense heat.
Former Philiadelpha Union player Le Toux, who was traded from Vancouver (the Whitecaps received winger Dane Richards and allocation money in exchange), started alongside Kenny Cooper and Thierry Henry in an attacking-looking lineup. Heath Pearce was again missing from the NY defence with injury, so Rafa Marquez started at the heart of the backline alongside Markus Holgersson as Hans Backe’s team looked to bounce back from defeat last week in New England.
William Conde dropped to the bench, and other player made his debut as Bill Gaudette (acquired from LA Galaxy) started between the sticks in the absence of Ryan Meara.
Seattle appeared to have gotten through their rough patch (winless in 9 games) with victories over both the Colorado Rapids in MLS, and over Chivas USA in the US Open Cup. That last result – a 4-1 semi-final victory in midweek – means that the Sounders will contest a record fourth-successive USOC final against Sporting KC. In MLS, however, a very strong start has (7-1-1) had been somewhat undermined by that winless stretch (0-5-4), and with San Jose continuing to lead the way in the Western Conference, it was important for Seattle not to lose further ground.
After the opening exchanges, in which Seattle striker Eddie Johnson seemed to be enjoying himself against Rafa Marquez, it was the visitors who struck the first blow. A Johansen cross from the right sailed over a statuesque Marquez, allowing Alvaro Fernandez to arrive late at the back post to score past Gaudette. 5 minutes afterwards coach Hans Backe replaced the Mexican international, bringing on Wilman Conde in his stead.
It was not immediately clear whether or not this move was tactical – Marquez ran off the pitch and straight down the tunnel without any obvious discomfort – but it was later confirmed that Marquez had a left calf injury. In any case, this enforced change improved the New York defence, and after 24 minutes Le Toux had his debut goal; Kenny Cooper fired off a fierce drive from outside the box that Meredith was only able to parry, and the onrushing Le Toux slammed home the rebound. Johnson’s pace continued to create a few issues but aside from one half-chance that was shanked wide, the Seattle attack failed to make many clear-cut chances. Just prior to the half-time whistle, a corner from the right found a rising Holgersson, whose headed smacked back off the crossbar.
In the second half the home side asserted themselves early, with 3 or 4 chances being made, the best of which was created by Henry find Lade on an overlapping run. The rookie’s finish had power but not the required accuracy, as it hit the side netting, causing a few of the home faithful on the other side to cheer for what they thought was a goal.
They did not have to wait long for the go-ahead goal, though; right back Brandon Barklage floated a clever ball over the Seattle defence to Joel Lindpere, who was allowed to cut inside and finish neatly with his left foot. A few of the Seattle defenders appealed for offside, and even though it was close they still should have done more to close down the Estonian and prevent his shot.
In the immediate aftermath following the goal, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid brought off captain Mauro Rosaes and put in Fredy Montero. This move proved inspired just 5 minutes later, when a surging run down the right by Brad Evans was capped with a great low cross into the box that Montero flicked past the despairing Gaudette. Montero could even have scored again ten minutes further on, when his shot from just outside of the area flew past the left hand post with Gaudette scrambling.
As the match wound down it became apparent that the heat had taken its toll – making Backe’s decision not to introduce any fresh legs in the second half even more puzzling – as the pace of play slowed down significantly.
Even so, New York probably should have emerged with all three points when a corner in the 3rd minute of stoppage time found Wilman Conde, whose header bounce just a foot or so wide of the post.
After the game, Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid said
“Obviously we’re pleased to come out with a point. I thought in the first half we played fairly well. The first goal was a great goal; they got a bit more into the game in the last ten minutes of the half and at the beginning of the second half they knocked the ball around a lot in their half of the field….I thought we showed a lot of character going down 2-1.”
On the form of striker Montero, Schmid had this to say:
“All forwards are streaky. Eddie’s on a good streak right now and Fredy is on a streak where he hasn’t scored as many goals. Montero played well for us on wednesday …he got taken down for a PK, got an assist on a goal. So, today we came differently with Rosales again underneath, but Fredy came in and I think that’s his 4th goal off the bench for us in 7 games.”
New York have the second match of 3 in 7 days on Wednesday afternoon as they host Chicago; Seattle don’t play in the league for nearly 2 weeks, although they do have an exhibition against English powerhouses and European Champions Chelsea on Wednesday evening.
New York: Gaudette: Marquez (Conde, 21), Holgersson, Lade, Barklage, McCarty, Miller, Lindpere, Cooper, Le Toux, Henry
Seattle: Meredith: Burch, Johansson, Ianni, Parke, Fernandez, Rose (Gonzalez, 77), Evans (Cerrasco, 84), Rosales (Montero, 61), Alonso, Johnson