Zach Thornton kept his 10th clean sheet of the campaign against the Seattle Sounders, but the Chivas USA goalie was made to work particularly hard for this one.
Seattle coach Sigi Schmid tried to shake up the attack by starting Sebastien Le Toux instead of Nate Jaqua up top, but his team couldn't find a way pas a scathingly hot Zach Thornton in the Chivas net.
The Goats shuffled the backline in front of Thornton, inserting Marcelo Saragosa and Ante Jazic for Jorge Flores (U20 World Cup) and Carey Talley (suspension). Saragosa himself was sent off in the 72nd minute, leaving Chivas to finish its third consecutive match with 10 men.
Zach Thornton was involved early on. He found himself on the ball way out by the sideline with Fredy Montero bearing down. The big man showed some quick feet on the ball to clear before the Colombian could nip in and steal it, which perhaps gave Thornton the confidence needed to pull off his six saves to follow.
The first and perhaps best of those came in the 15th minute. Freddie Ljungberg burned past the static Jazic down the right and floated a ball to the far post. Steve Zakuani softly laid the ball back to Le Toux six yards out from goal. The Frenchman snapped a volley on net, but Thornton spread out his frame quickly in a sudden reaction to push the ball over.
That was the only clear-cut chance of the first half. Ljungberg sent in a total of seven corners in the half as Seattle pressed the Chivas defense without finding a way past.
The Goats had only half chances. Sacha Kljestan blasted a free kick through where the field goal wickets would have been before steaming through the defense and playing a one-two with Maicon Santos. The Brazilian striker, however, couldn't redirect his pass to where Kljestan would have been able to break clear on goal.
Near the end of the half, Ljungberg created another chance down the flank. His cross again found Zakuani, but this time the rookie's soft header was slammed out of bounds by Saragosa before Montero could latch onto it at the far post.
Seattle came out of the gates with more urgency after the restart. Four minutes in, Yamith Cuesto touched a toe to a throw-in, only to loop it towards the far post. Zakuani rose to put a header on target, but another reaction save from Thornton kept it out.
When Cuesto went down with an injury past the hour mark, Chivas sent in legendary Mexican defender Claudio Suarez, recently reactivated after spending a stint on the Disabled List. Suarez was nearly caught out for pace within his first few minutes on the pitch. Leo Gonzalez knocked a ball past him in the box which found Zakuani. The 21-year-old centered for Montero, who had no marker, but at some point the play was called offsides, with Montero a few feet out from what was essentially an open net.
In the 72nd, Saragosa was sent off. He and Montero both went for a high ball with their feet, but Saragosa left his cleat dangling in the air, shoving it into the throat and jaw of Montero. The Brazilian received his just red card and left his teammates to defend a man down for the remaining 20 minutes.
The game threatened to boil over from there, with Santos and substitute Mariano Trujillo picking up yellows for rash challenges.
Ljungberg continued to threaten as the Sounders turned the screw, firing a couple chances inches wide.
The best chance, however, fell to Montero. Substitute Nate Jaqua played a superb flick to Brad Evans, who hit a low cross through the Chivas defense. The ball found Montero alone in front of goal, with only the out-rushing Thornton to beat for what would surely turn out to be the game winner. Instead, he smacked his shot within range of Thornton's arms as the goalkeeper put the icing on the cake of his man-of-the-match performance with another highlight-reel save.
As the game ticked over into four minutes of extra time, the Sounders put an intense amount of pressure on the Chivas defense, which couldn't seem to clear for the life of it. But the ball wouldn't fall for the hosts, leaving the match scoreless as the final whistle blew.
Zac Lee Rigg, Goal.com
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