Wednesday's 1-1 tie was the Sounders' sixth straight game without a win — their longest skid since 2009.
If the Sounders were looking for a boost to snap a five-game MLS winless streak, they couldn’t have done any better than seeing Steve Zakuani on the bench for the first time in nearly 14 months.
It was a milestone moment for the 24-year-old midfielder, who suffered a broken leg and serious complications after a reckless slide tackle by Colorado Rapids midfielder Brian Mullan on April 22, 2011.
Zakuani didn’t end up playing Wednesday, and the Sounders didn’t even win, settling for a 1-1 tie in a physical bout with Sporting Kansas City in front of a season-high crowd of 46,932 at CenturyLink Field.
The overly brutish game, which saw 27 fouls called — 18 on the visitors — and a red card issued to Seattle’s Alvaro Fernandez in the final minutes, ultimately prevented Zakuani’s MLS return, according to coach Sigi Schmid.
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“The referee wasn’t really protecting players and I didn’t think that was a good environment to throw him into in the first game,” Schmid said.
Zakuani agreed with the decision, still calling the night “a good experience.”
“I feel a lot more a part of the team with that kind of step forward,” he said. “It’s good. … It was a huge step forward.”
Seattle’s six-game winless drought is its longest since a 0-1-5 run in 2009.
Sporting Kansas City (9-3-2) had lost five-straight to the Sounders, including several dramatically late in games — and it looked like that might be the case again Wednesday.
Seattle forward Fredy Montero had a great chance to break Kansas City’s hearts in the 88th minute, but while his left-footed shot sneaked under the hand of goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, it hit off the post and was cleared before the Sounders (7-4-4) could knock in a rebound.
The goals, instead, were reserved for an entertaining first half.
The Sounders allowed the first goal for the sixth straight game, and it came somewhat unluckily in the eighth minute when a deflected shot by Kansas City midfielder Jacob Peterson took a nasty redirection as it sailed past goalkeeper Andrew Weber.
Weber, who earned his first start of the season, didn’t think the shot wasn’t going in without the deflection.
“I just saw it late,” he said. “Maybe if I get a little better of a jump on it I can pull that out of the top corner.”
Seattle wasted no time finding an equalizer and it came in spectacular fashion in the 15th minute, when defender Patrick Ianni slammed an acrobatic side-volley off a free kick.
The highlight-reel worthy strike was the quickest Sounders goal this season.
Did Ianni think it was the best goal he’s ever scored?
“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “Best goal — practice, games — since I was born.”
Schmid joked: “I think he surprised himself, too.”
The Sounders started their 15th different lineup in as many games, with Weber replacing goalkeeper Bryan Meredith, and Ianni, who had missed six games with a back injury, starting for Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, who was suspended after receiving a red card Saturday in Montreal.
The most meaningful change, however, came in the availability of an unused sub in Zakuani.
“That’s the biggest story of the night, honestly,” Ianni said. “It’s so good to have him back.”
• The Sounders wore black armbands and held a moment of silence before kickoff in memory of North American Soccer League Sounder Steve Buttle, who died of cancer this month.
• Seattle MF Alvaro Fernandez was issued a red card in the final minutes and will be suspended Sunday. It marked the second straight game a Sounders player had been ejected.
• Sounders FC next plays at rival Portland at 2 p.m. Sunday, a game broadcast on ESPN, followed quickly by a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal at San Jose on Tuesday.
• Extra tickets were purchased by Safeco Insurance (6,500 for employees and 1,500 as a donation to Washington Youth Soccer) to celebrate Liberty Mutual’s 100th anniversary.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @joshuamayers
|Sporting Kansas City||1 0 — 1|
|Seattle||1 0 — 1|
First half — 1, Sporting Kansas City, Peterson 1 (Collin), 8th minute. 2, Seattle, Ianni 1 (Rosales), 15th. Second half — None. Goalies — Sporting Kansas City, Jimmy Nielsen; Seattle, Andrew Weber. Shots — Sporting Kansas City 14, Seattle 16. Shots on goal — Sporting Kansas City 4, Seattle 3. Saves — Sporting Kansas City 2, Seattle 3. Fouls — Sporting Kansas City 18, Seattle 9. Corner kicks — Sporting Kansas City 9, Seattle 4. Offsides — Sporting Kansas City 2, Seattle 7. Yellow Cards — Collin, Sporting Kansas City, 17th; Olum, Sporting Kansas City, 49th; Nielsen, Sporting Kansas City, 59th; Scott, Seattle, 90th. Red Cards — Fernandez, Seattle, 90th+. Referee — Jair Marrufo. Assistant Referees — Frank Anderson. C.J. Morgante. 4th Official — Fotis Bazakos. A — 46,932 (32,400).
Sporting Kansas City — Jimmy Nielsen, Michael Harrington, Lawrence Olum, Aurelien Collin, Chance Myers, Peterson Joseph (Graham Zusi, 50th), Jacob Peterson (Kei Kamara, 65th), Roger Espinoza, Michael Thomas, Soony Saad (C.J. Sapong, 86th), Teal Bunbury.
Seattle — Andrew Weber, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, Marc Burch, Zach Scott, Mauro Rosales (Alvaro Fernandez, 81st), Alex Caskey, Brad Evans (Andy Rose, 72nd), Osvaldo Alonso, Eddie Johnson (Sammy Ochoa, 81st), Fredy Montero.