By TATE STEINLAGE
SEATTLE, Wash. — Second-half stoppage time has become the Seattle Sounders’ best friend, and Sporting Kansas City’s worst enemy.
After allowing a 94th minute goal last year to the Sounders at home, Sporting KC experienced deja vu in Saturday’s MLS opener at CenturyLink Field when forward Chad Barrett struck from inside the box to give the home side a 1-0 victory.
“We had a lapse in the midfield,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said about the goal. “Two of the guys that should have been back — one was much higher than the other — and there was nobody in that screen in front of the back four, so it was easy for them to now break forward and serve the ball to the fullbacks and have the second lines come in as well because we didn’t have anybody there. We were just out of shape in that part of the field.”
The result brings up a recurring trend. Now in the last six meetings dating back to 2011, Seattle has scored a goal in the dying seconds of the match four times. It begs the question, “How?”
“It’s not like we’re not ready. We played a good game,” Vermes said. “They found a way a few times against us, but I really don’t think it’s a trend against the team — I really don’t. It just happens. It’s happened to us a number of times, but it’s not because — look, they have how many new guys on the field today — it’s not like they have something that they do at the end of the game that’s so different than anyone else.”
Sporting KC gave clear indication around the 80-minute mark they were content with a draw. Vermes confirmed that when he subbed on defenders Ike Opara and Mechack Jerome in the first three minutes of stoppage time period to aide defensively. The move led some to question whether or not the team was sitting back on their heels too much.
“They’re at home. They have a full stadium and it’s their home opener. They have to push the game a little bit,” Vermes said. “It’s not our job to open up the field so they can play and get goals. It’s our job to make it hard for them when we’re defending.
“I think that they were a little aggressive towards the end of the game, because they were wanting to get a goal and they were pushing numbers forward. We almost caught them two or three times as well, so it easily could have turned the other way.”
Despite the loss, goalkeeper Eric Kronberg and defender Matt Besler made it clear that Sporting KC’s busy schedule actually aides in helping get over a defeat like this, noting the four-day turnaround to Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League knockout stage against Liga MX leader Cruz Azul.
“That’s kinda the nature of the beast — when you lose you can’t think about it too much, and when you win you can’t get too high,” Kronberg said. “It’s just another game. I think we had a solid performance and we definitely can build on it. We’re definitely all looking forward to Wednesday.”
“One of the positives after a game like this is when you can have a quick turn around,” defender Matt Besler echoed. “This game on Wednesday will be one of the most important games of our entire season. We knew that going in, the importance of Wednesday, and now we just have to move on and get ready.”