COMMERCE CITY, COLO. – The Seattle Sounders stepped out of their locker room Saturday and were greeted by a sign that reads: “Welcome to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. One mile above sea level.”
As if they didn’t have enough to worry about.
The Sounders traveled to Colorado minus two starting midfielders, and they lost a third Saturday less than a minute into the game. Then they fell a goal down early in the second half, knowing that a loss would cost them sole possession of second place in the MLS Western Conference.
Yet they overcome all of that – plus the thin air – and seemed satisfied enough to get away with a 2-2 draw against the Colorado Rapids.
“I think it’s an ugly draw, but at the same time it’s a good point,” said Seattle defender Tyrone Marshall. “We showed some character tonight because we were down. … They scored right after halftime which kind of put us back on our heels; like, ‘Wow, here we go.’ But we kept plugging away, and we got the goal and we got the point. So, we’re pleased about that.”
The Sounders flew in without starting midfielders Freddie Ljungberg and Brad Evans, who remained home with injuries. In the first minute, midfielder Osvaldo Alonso went down with a right quadriceps strain that began bothering him during warm-ups.
Even playing with reserves making up 75 percent of the midfield, Seattle somehow struck first.
Fredy Montero fired a close-range shot that Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens batted away, but Montero got the rebound and finished the goal.
The middle portion of the game switched to the Rapids, who drew even and then moved ahead on goals by Colin Clark and Conor Casey. It could have been worse.
“Kasey Keller played very well in the first half and kept us in the game with some very big saves,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “… That’s a big change when you’ve got an entirely new midfield that’s playing together for the first time. I thought we were a little disjointed in the first half – our wide midfielders were a little too wide, so we gave them a lot of space. … They got in behind us quite a few times.”
Colorado’s lead held until the 76th minute when James Riley made a steal that the Rapids -- and many in the crowd of 16,528 – thought was a handball.
However, there was no whistle. And while the Rapids gestured for justice, Riley pushed forward.
“It was more ball-to-arm, to be honest,” he said. “It was pretty high, so it’s one of those that gets played. You’ve still got to complete the play. I kept playing it.”
Riley sent a cross into the penalty area, where Montero won it and headed it down to Nate Jaqua, who got his second goal this year.
“Right place at the right time,” Jaqua said. “But it feels good to get the back of the net.”
The Sounders (4-2-4) didn’t seem disappointed about this fourth consecutive draw, which allowed them to remain ahead of Houston (4-2-3) and Colorado (3-2-4) in the standings.
The teams will meet again Tuesday – closer to sea level. The Rapids will travel to Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila for a U.S. Open Cup play-in match. The winner advances to the round of 16.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808