Photos by Matt Warso, captions by Toby Dunkelberg
The Seattle Sounders hosted Sporting Kansas City in a match up of Western Conference leaders. Peter Vermes, having played his starters for 120 minutes in their midweek US Open Cup win, was forced to start many would-be substitutes against a first choice lineup from Seattle.
Sporting KC started well with a high press that forced Seattle’s defense into a couple rushed clearances to SKC players. But Sporting struggled to turn that possession into chances, largely due to stellar defending from across the entire back line.
Seattle adjusted to the press quickly. It wasn’t long before they started finding success on the wings with Jones and Morris combining on the left. The focus on one side left Seattle a little one-dimensional, and it wasn’t until the Sounders swapped Morris to the right that they saw their first real chance of the day.
GOAL SEATTLE – Morris finds Dempsey to put Seattle on top
Throughout the match Svensson and Roldan had recycled poor clearances from SKC which served to amplify the momentum Seattle’s attack was generating. In the 36th minute Roldan made another recycling pass just like the others. This time though it was to Morris on the right wing. Fresh off his goal in the Gold Cup final, Morris provided a perfect cross that Clint Dempsey thundered past SKC goalkeeper Tim Melia.
Eager for another, Sounders kept up the pressure. Stellar hold-up play from Will Bruin and intricate passing from Nicolas Lodeiro led to more chances from Seattle as the half came to a close, but they’d have to settle for just one goal.
Halftime: Seattle Sounders 1 – Sporting Kansas City 0
Kansas City came out of the break with a renewed focus and controlled possession for the first 20 minutes of the second half. During that time it was easy to forget that they were playing their second team. After the game Cristian Roldan pointed out that “[SKC] make it very difficult, they spread the ball, they use every inch of the field and that makes it very difficult even at home.” Unfortunately for the away team they struggled to spread the ball in Seattle’s half generating only 3 shots on target. All of which were from 15 yards out or more.
Sensing the shift, Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer subbed in Osvaldo Alonso “because we weren’t having a great possession game on the day” and praised him for his “composure on the ball which was great and helped us in those critical moments.” He showed little sings of rust in his first appearance since suffering an injury against Colorado on July 4th and helped the Sounders to shepherd the game out.
Seattle kept on the pressure as the game entered it’s final moments. Even as the subs entered the game and as the final whistle grew closer the Sounders were attacking in search of another goal. It’s the next man up mentality and great depth that Sounders players and coaches alike have praised during their unbeaten streak.
Fulltime: Seattle Sounders 1 – Sporting Kansas City 0
With the final whistle and Dempseys lone goal of the day the Sounders earned the victory vaulting them up to the top of the Western Conference standings. The win extended their unbeaten streak to 8 games and extended their scoreless streak to a franchise record 400 minutes. They’ll look to extend both of those streaks next week when they play host to Minnesota United at home.
Toby and Matt both featured in Resurgence: How Sounders FC Roared Back to Win MLS Cup, available for presale NOW via Prost Publishing. ESPNFC writer Matt Pentz, BBC veteran and Rapids play by play announcer Richard Fleming, former Seattle mayor Greg Nickels and MLSsoccer.com’s Ari Liljenwall all feature, detailing Sounders’ historic worst-to-first run in 2016.