Seattle earns a point on the road as Kasey Keller comes up big
After a sloppy opening to the game, the visitors were stuck into the lead by Fredy Montero, who connected with a Erik Friberg cross, and his header beat Crew keeper William Hesmer off the near side post, as the Crew number one did a jig of uncertainty in his six yard box. It was the first chance of the game, and it must have brought back a feeling a deja vu for the Crew faithful, as last season Seattle jumped out early and never looked back en route to a 4-0 victory.
However, that effort was to be Seattle's only effort on goal, and for the rest of the game the Crew had chance after chance to equalize. Their first attempt was by Eddie Gaven who was played through brilliantly by Dilly Duka. The Crew winger's shot was well saved by Kasey Keller, as the former US international keeper denied the Crew a instant response.
The quality of play was clearly effected by the wet conditions, as both teams failed to maintain possession for a majority of the first half, and the home team looked especially out of sync. Their poor play led to a couple of half chances for Seattle, but neither resulted in any major danger for the Black and Gold.
Just after the half hour mark the Crew had their best chance in the first half to level the score, as danger man Robbie Rogers was put through on goal after a clearing header by Sebastian Miranda and a through header by playmaker Dilly Duka. Once again, Kasey Keller showed why he is on the short list of best US keepers ever by producing a spectacular toe poke save on the young Crew wide man.
It was a typically physical game, as the foul count rose at a ever increasing rate. With the rain making footwork and possession more difficult, it was to be expected that the referee would be a busy man, and near the end of the first half he put two Sounders in the book, as first Servando Carrasco then the goal scorer Montero were booked for fouls. In the first half alone there were a total of 20 combined fouls. The whistle ended the action with both sides needing a break from the foul heavy first half.
Crew striker Emilio Renteria is on a fine run of form, with three goals in two games. He had a great chance to make it four in three just after the restart, and a week after scoring his first ever left footed goal, he tried to make it back to back, but the ever-present Keller denied him after the Venezuelan forward did well to create space for himself.
Before the game, Crew designated player Andres Mendoza's salary was revealed to be just under $600,000 for the 2011 season. The Peruvian striker made his first substitute appearance of the year, coming on for midfielder Dilly Duka in the 60th minute, a clear sign that the home side were going to push for a equalizer. And after another Montero header off a cross, they would take the next 12 shots of the game, which was stopped only by the full time whistle.
The Crew had scored three goals out of seven total prior to tonight game, and they got the chance to make it an even four out of eight when the ref pointed to the spot on a corner kick, deciding that Patrick Ianni's marking of Chad Marshall was more than what was allowed.
Replays showed that it may have been a tad harsh on Seattle, but nevertheless, the penalty was given, and up stepped the on-form Renteria to take the spot kick. Keller had been superb so far, but could not stop Renteria from scoring his fourth goal in three games as Renteria sent Keller the wrong way before burying his kick to his right side.
With the equalizer in hand and the visitors looking unlikely to score again, the Crew spent the last 20+ minutes of the contest playing mostly in the Seattle half of the pitch. Just minutes after the penalty Robbie Rogers had a chance to take the lead for the home side, but his effort did not match the quality of Andres Mendoza's pass to set him up, and the Crew spurned a chance to take the lead.
Around the 70th minute a injury to Crew midfielder Kevin Burns stopped play for about three minutes, as the holding midfielder had to be subbed off, and Emmanuel Ekpo was brought on to replace him. It was another aggressive substitution by Robert Warzycha, who was looking for the maximum three points after a disastrous start.
The physicality lasted the entire match, as four second half yellow cards were handed out for various hard fouls, and Eddie Gaven may well need an ice bath after tonight's match, as the Crew wide man suffered the fouls which led to all three second half yellow cards. But he still remained dangerous, and after a Rodgers cross went long, the veteran Gaven tried a volley from a tight angle, a well struck effort, but one that Kasey Keller had covered all the way.
Just into second half stoppage time Gaven was once again felled in a dangerous area about 25 yards out on the right side of the area, and the free kick was struck by the left foot of Andres Mendoza, and his dipping effort may have been a tad high but Seattle keeper Kasey Keller made no mistake and tipped the ball over the bar for a corner.
Crew keeper William Hesmer began jogging forward, and there was a buzz that the goal scoring hero of last year may come up for the last ditch corner, but just like the scoreline, he remained in place, as full time blew to the relief of the visitors, who had survived a barrage of shots in the second half. Overall, both sides can take comfort in the point, but Seattle will be no doubt happier with the split of the spoils.
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