By DAN KARELL
Whatever plans Seattle Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid put together for his side’s match against the Columbus Crew on Saturday had to be thrown away just moments after starting the match.
In a game that was delayed for 94 minutes due to torrential storms, the Seattle Sounders were forced to play 83 minutes down to ten men. Despite this, an Eddie Johnson header goal proved the difference as the visitors gutted out a 1-0 victory against the Crew at Crew Stadium.
The hosts were playing without star Federico Higuain in the first of his two-match suspension, but his replacement Ryan Finley helped turn the match on its head early. Taking advantage of a deflected clearance, Finley raced towards goal and was pulled down from behind by Sounders defender Leo Gonzalez in the 7th minute, forcing referee Ismail Elfath to reach for a red card.
It was Gonzalez’s first red card of the season and only the second in his Sounders career.
Even though the visitors were a man down, being able to rely on U.S. Men’s National Team standouts up top in Eddie Johnson and Clint Dempsey can help on set pieces. Only seven minutes after the red card, Johnson showed up in the box on a free kick and sent a glancing header in for a goal, giving his side the lead. It was the USMNT forward’s seventh goal of the season and second in as many games.
In the 19th minute, the Sounders were dealt a second blow in the match as midfielder and USMNT selection Brad Evans was forced off with a calf injury.
As the Sounders began to tire and play more of a counter attacking style, the Crew kept on their relentless pressure. Crew winger Dominic Oduro became a focal point of the attack, but Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning came up time and time again making three saves, including denying Crew winger Oduro on a low strike in the 59th minute.
Gspurning’s opposite Matt Lampson meanwhile denied Lamar Neagle a chance to double the lead just before the halftime break with a finger-tip save. Seconds later, the Crew’s Justin Meram took a strike that fizzed just over the crossbar.
In the second half, the Crew continued to take the game at the Sounders, but their chances mainly went wide of target, finishing the day with ten shots off target. Oduro had a terrific chance to level the scoreline in the 80th minute, but sent his wide open shot just wide of the far post.
Here are the game highlights: