Without protest, Los Angeles Galaxy defender Daniel Steres walked off the field in what would have been a game-changer for any other MLS team.
Steres was shown a red card in the sixth minute for a tackle against the visiting Sounders FC. Down a man matters, unless Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of the players who remains.
The forward scored twice to help the Galaxy keep pace for a 2-2 draw with Seattle at Dignity Health Sports Park.
“Nothing about this feels good,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said via audio provided by MLS. “I need to get a team that feels confident. That can defend confidently. That can attack confidently. We need to give those guys the right tools, the right messaging, the right whatever it takes to get them to play like they were in the first six, seven games of the year.”
Los Angeles (13-11-2) was the obvious heavyweight against Seattle (11-8-7). Ibrahimovic is one of the most dynamic players in the league with 20 goals while goalkeeper David Bingham had collected 104 saves and eight shutouts entering the nationally televised match.
But the odds shifted when Steres chased down and tackled Sounders striker Raul Ruidiaz, who otherwise would’ve broken free for a score. Steres was sent off, leaving the Galaxy with 10 players for 84 minutes of the match.
“Any time you go down a man, you should expect to win,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said via audio provided by MLS. “Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”
It took time for Ruidiaz to maneuver another attempt. In the 42nd minute, off a first effort from teammate Jordan Morris, winger Harry Shipp tapped an assist to Ruidiaz for the opening goal.
Ibrahimovic nailed the equalizer off a feed from Sebastian Lletget three minutes later and he added the go-ahead score in the 65th minute on a penalty kick. Sounders defender Kim Kee-hee had trouble marking the 6-foot-5 Ibrahimovic and was called for a hard tackle inside the box to setup the kick against Sounders keeper Stefan Frei.
The Galaxy couldn’t seal the victory, however, giving up an own goal with Bingham about 30 yards from the net. He came off his line to catch a save and missed, the ball deflecting off teammate Jorgen Skjelvik. The latter was unable to chase down the loose ball as it rolled in to the chorus of Morris’ laughter in the 82nd minute.
None of the Sounders were smiling after the game, though. The night was filled with missed opportunities beginning with a header in front of the goal by Morris. Seattle had six shots on target and possessed the ball 61.2% of the time and couldn’t find a victory.
The Sounders’ last victory was July 27 in Houston.
“We were sloppy,” Sounders right back Kelvin Leerdam said via audio provided by MLS. “In the second half we were lucky because Zaltan missed a big chance and they scored an own goal. Overall, I’m happy we’re still creating chances. If we don’t create, we’d have big problems. But we need to finish the chances right now to make it easier on ourselves.”
Seattle remains fifth in the Western Conference with the draw. It plays at Portland on Friday.
Defensive midfielder Gustav Svensson returned to the Sounders starting lineup for the first time since the team’s home defeat against the Timbers on July 21. He noticed a difference in his team as the game progressed against L.A.
The Sounders entered the match having given up nine goals in their previous three games, resulting in two defeats and a draw. It’s a stark difference from Seattle’s opening to the season when it led the league in goals scored and had a franchise-record six-game unbeaten streak.
“We should’ve won this one,” Svensson said via audio provided by MLS. “Sometimes we (should’ve) tried to get at them a little bit more. Try to punish them a little bit more, but when we were down 2-1, it felt really hard. Especially the results that we had before coming into this game. You could see it in the team, on the players. The confidence isn’t really there right now, but we just need one win to build on.”
The Sounders were without left winger Victor Rodriguez (hamstring) and left back Brad Smith (adductor). The first-choice players are expected to be in the lineup Friday against Portland.
“The game was ripe for the taking,” Schmetzer said. “It’s two points dropped.”