Don’t get it twisted.
Leaving a road match with a point is always a good thing in Major League Soccer. But the Sounders FC overcame too many obstacles to be pleased they dropped a lead late to Real Salt Lake and head back to Seattle with a 2-2 draw.
“Don’t confuse my words that I’m not happy,” Sounders FC coach Brian Schmetzer told media via video conference call. “I need to make them understand that these are moments where the team can close games and that’s going to matter when it’s later in the year and playoffs and all of that.”
Sounders defender Yeimar Gomez Andrade had the go-ahead goal off a header in the 69th minute. It was the first career MLS goal for the Colombian, who was signed in February, and the play was set up by Alex Roldan and Jordy Delem for a 2-1 lead.
Schmetzer began making substitutions for an already altered starting lineup due to only having two days rest from Sunday’s home win against Los Angeles FC. The club played strong in a defensive lineup until an error that conceded a goal.
RSL midfielder Pablo Ruiz collected a clearance ball deep outside the box on his team’s corner kick. He deadened the rebound and then beamed a powerful strike at goal.
Gomez Andrade assured the ball’s direction in an attempt to block the shot with his head. And Sounders FC keeper Stefan Frei’s reach wasn’t long enough for a diving save, the goal equalizing the score in the 85th minute.
“It always starts with the coaching staff, so I have to accept some of that blame,” Schmetzer said. “I have to accept some of that blame and it’s very important that we as a group understand that they worked too hard to have control of the game in a very challenging place to play, a place that we haven’t had good results, we need to have the mental strength, the thinking process to close that game out and come home with three points.”
The Sounders (4-1-3) defeated RSL (2-1-5) in the Western Conference semifinals en route to winning MLS Cup, but haven’t won in Utah since November 2012.
Wednesday seemed primed to change that fate. Midfielder Nico Lodeiro put the Rave Green on the board first with a score off a penalty kick.
The two-time MLS champion easily knocked home the goal in the 29th minute to become MLS’s leader among active players for consecutive penalty kicks scored in the regular season. Lodeiro’s streak is 12 and his celebration for it was cupping a hand behind each ear and staring into the crowd.
For the first time since March 7, the Sounders played before fans amid the coronavirus pandemic. But the stadium was limited to an announced crowd of 4,026, likely making it difficult to deafen Lodeiro with boos.
RSL defender Aaron Herrera was shown a yellow card in the 28th minute for a handball in the box to set up Lodeiro’s goal.
In the second half, Real Salt Lake defender Justen Glad poked a header past Frei for the equalizer in the 50th minute. The service was on a corner kick and Frei couldn’t control his initial touch on the ball.
Playing three days after defeating Los Angeles FC at home prompted Schmetzer to make multiple lineup changes to guard any possible injuries. He played a lineup heavy on center backs and tried different tactical formations throughout the match.
Rave Green forward Jordan Morris was replaced on the left wing by Handwalla Bwana and Nouhou returned to the starting left fullback slot.
Another defensive return was Xavier Arreaga at center back. He suffered a quadriceps injury in training that caused him to miss one game and saw four minutes as a sub against LAFC on Sunday.
On the right wing, Cristian Roldan was backed up by his younger brother, Alex, instead of veteran Kelvin Leerdam. And Jordy Delem was swapped in for Gustav Svensson in the midfield to play alongside Lodeiro.
“There are little errors that we need to correct and move forward on,” said Alex Roldan via video conference call with media. “But we’re also coming home with some key components to our game that we added, a new formation that we believe we came out and played well in. So, definitely coming back with our head held high.”
The Sounders, who remain two points behind leader Sporting Kansas City in the MLS Western Conference standings, will return to CenturyLink Field to play Portland on Sunday. Due to Washington government rules regarding crowd sizes, fans will not be permitted in attendance.
Editor’s note: The Times declined to send a reporter to Utah for this game because of COVID-19 safety concerns.