A free kick by star midfielder Kaka was headed in to the goal by Scott Sutter in the third and final minute of injury time to help Orlando City FC snatch a 1-1 draw away from what appeared to be a certain Sounders victory.
A look at the angry faces in the Sounders’ locker room told you this was one night a draw was the same as a loss.
For nearly 93 minutes on Wednesday, the Sounders played well enough to win. But they couldn’t finish their chances enough to avoid the disaster that befell them in the game’s final seconds when a free kick awarded to Orlando City FC led to an equalizing header in the box and a 1-1 draw that stunned the CenturyLink Field crowd.
It wasn’t so much the carelessly loose defensive play in the final minute that so upset the Sounders; more the failure to capitalize on multiple chances, an ongoing event that’s been a hallmark of their sub-.500 first half.
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“We had multiple opportunities to score two, or three that we just didn’t do,’’ Sounders forward Will Bruin said. “And that seems to be a recurring problem for us. I think once we get that first game going where we get two or three, it will start clicking.’’
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Thing is, the Sounders have repeated that mantra for months now to no avail. They sit 5-7-5 at the season’s halfway mark with just one road win and having surrendered a critical two extra points at home.
For most of the entire night, it seemed a 19th-minute strike by Bruin that electrified the 42,333 fans would hold up for good. Bruin, as he so often does, had pushed off Orlando defender Jonathan Spector at the precise moment a Nicolas Loderio pass headed his way.
The ball bounded between Spector’s legs and found its way to Bruin, who unleashed a right-footed shot that beat keeper Joe Bendik. Bruin’s knack for putting himself in the right place, right time has made him a career 50-goal scorer and given him five tallies for the Sounders despite only six starts.
Moving Bruin up to striker and flanking Jordan Morris out wider is one of the tactics deployed by coach Brian Schmetzer in his search for more goals. Morris had opportunities to add to the 1-0 lead, nearly getting in alone on Bendik in the game’s 57th minute.
Then, two minutes after that, Morris put a ball in the box that Bruin back-footed to Clint Dempsey. But Dempsey failed to get his full leg into the point-blank strike and the ball was cleared.
“I just think we have to have a killer mentality in the box and that conviction,’’ Bruin said. “You know, when you’re around the box, be opportunistic. Shoot. Put balls across the frame. We don’t need to pass it in to the goal.’’
The Sounders could have been a little more possession-minded in the game’s closing moments. But they allowed Orlando a bit too much space and a costly foul and yellow card issued to Roman Torres set Brazilian star Kaka up for a crucial free kick from just outside the box to the left.
Kaka fired a bullet past several Sounders defenders and Scott Sutter got free enough to head one by a helpless Stefan Frei.
“You know they’re going to throw the kitchen sink at us, so maybe we’ve got to be a bit smarter and not give up a silly free kick,’’ Frei said. “And had we wasted a couple of precious seconds up top by going into the corner and holding off the ball more, those are the things that are going to make the difference.’’
Frei agreed the game was a “loss’’ – both the two points it lost and the team’s overall psyche. He said the situation isn’t as bad as last year, when the team nearly buried itself midway.
Schmetzer agreed “it feels like a loss’’ and said he and his staff will have to make the needed tweaks to get more balls in the net. Featuring Bruin more often appears the most likely way to start.
“He played very well,’’ Schmetzer said. “We’ll make decisions and we’ll try and get the right team out there.’’