Saturday, March 26, 2011

Returning Zakuani Saves Seattle

Steve ZakuaniAhead of their game against Houston, Seattle were boosted by the return of one of their star players, Steve Zakuani. Zakuani's injury had caused him to miss Seattle's first two matches of the season, games against LA and New York respectively. Both those ties had ended in 1-0 defeats, and the hope around the Sounders camp was that this game would bring a better result.

The match started with the Sounders on top, and on seven minutes O'Brien White showed his pace in attack, beating a defender to the ball before winning a corner for his side. Seattle were starting to dominate, and a Brad Evans shot from long range set the attacking ball rolling for the hosts.

After two goalless performances against New York and LA, the pressure was on Seattle's strikers to find the net, and with the trio of White, Montero and Zakuani looking lively, it seemed only a matter of time before one of them broke the deadlock.

As the half dragged on, Seattle continued to create chances, and on twenty six minutes the impressive Erik Friberg whipped in a cross, that White headed towards goal, only to denied by a flying save from Houston keeper Hall. With chance after chance being wasted by the home side, the risk of  a sucker punch goal became more and more apparent, and with forty-one minutes on the clock, the Sounders' misses were finally punished.

Having won a free kick on the edge of the arc, a Houston player tapped the ball to midfielder Carlton Palmer, who let leash with a ferocious strike that rattled against the crossbar. First to react to the ensuing penalty area mayhem was Jeff Cameron, who bulleted a shot into the back of the net via a deflection and the crossbar. Houston were 1-0 up, and with Qwest Field silent, one could sense all Seattle's worst premonitions coming true, all at once.

At half time the mood around Qwest Field was less than jubilant, and as the second half started off an air desperation started to set in around the ground.

In all honesty, the first fifteen minutes of the second half were less than pretty, with both teams wasteful in possession, and balls being sprayed out of play at random.

Seattle seemed to have lost their creative edge, with Montero and Zakuani virtually non existent for much of the second period. Tension was beginning to build, and one could feel the pressure on Zhiggi Schmidt's side building, like a green tidal wave, gaining ferocity with every passing second.

But, on seventy-nine minutes, all the anxiety around the ground was alleviated. One of Friberg's trademark whipped crosses was deflected into the path of Zakuani who couldn't miss from a yard out with the goal gaping. Finally, Seattle were level, and with ten minutes to go a winner was certainly not out of the question.

However, Houston had other ideas, and Dominic Kinnear's side continued to put on the pressure, rather then drop back into their defensive shell. In fact, it was the visiting side who came closest to grabbing a winner, as substitute Brian Ching could only send his headed chance wide of Kasey Keller's goal.

Time was running out for both teams to grab a winner, but when the board went up for four minutes of added time, the entire crowd roared in expectancy. With Rosales, Montero, Jaqua, Friberg, and Zakuani on the pitch, Seattle had more than enough attacking initiative to win the game, a result that their fans were desperately hoping for.

Unfortunately for the Sounders', a win was to prove a step too far, and the side were forced to settle for their first point of the 2011 MLS campaign, courtesy of a first goal of the season from Steve Zakuani.

Zhiggi Schmidt will probably be pleased by the invention the Sounders showed in attack, particularly in the first half, where White, Zakuani and Montero combined well. However, once again a Seattle performance was defined by missed chances, and if the Washington based team can't figure out how to finish, then it could be a very long season indeed.

For Houston, this result also marks a first point of the 2011 MLS season, and, as I pointed out in my weekly prediction column, Houston probably would have taken that point ahead of play. The atmosphere at Qwest Field is always hostile for the visiting side, and I think Kinnear and his team will actually be quite chuffed that they emerged from the cauldron, unscathed.

No comments:

Post a Comment