The Seattle Sounders were about 10 minutes away from moving back to the top of the hill in Major League Soccer.
Then they surrendered a late goal and had to content themselves with a road point from a 1-1 draw against Sporting Kansas City at sold out Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas.
Seattle (14-13-4) extended its MLS unbeaten streak to five game, but the result left the club torn as to whether it represented a point gained, or two points squandered. A win would’ve moved the Sounders into at least second place in the Western Conference, instead they sit in fourth.
“It’s a result on the road,” Seattle goalkeeper Stefen Frei said. “But I think we’re all a bit disappointed because we put in a really good first half and had our chances in the second half to put them away. I think the heat and humidity kind of zapped our energy level a little bit and made it difficult, and obviously they came back. Good effort. … It keeps the train rolling. It keeps the points coming in.”
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Seattle and Kansas City (12-9-9) both had plenty of missed chances to regret. Most notable were a pair of chances in front of the goal that Seattle designated player Clint Dempsey couldn’t direct into the back of the net. Meanwhile, SKC substitute Dom Dwyer got the equalizing goal, but he also endured a couple of near misses down the stretch, including one saved by Frei in stoppage time.
“It’s a situation of I don’t think we were as good as we needed to be in the second half,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “But we had two good chances with Dempsey right in front of the goal. If he scores one of those two, then the score lines goes from 1-0 to 2-0, then the game’s over.”
Dwyer and most Sporting Kansas City regulars were kept out of the starting lineup in advance of the club’s U.S. Open Cup final Wednesday at Philadelphia. Sporting started six players 22 or younger, five with fewer than 10 career starts and three homegrown players.
Given all that, it seemed just a matter of time before the Sounders’ veteran and mostly healthy lineup — including all three designated players — would take advantage.
That happened in the 32nd minute, when Obafemi Martins got to a pass from Gonzalo Pineda behind the SKC defense and managed to send it through the legs of sprawling goalkeeper Jon Kempin. It was the fifth consecutive MLS game Martins has scored, and it raises his goal total to a club-leading 14.
However, the Sounders couldn’t build on the lead, and that cost them in the 79th minute when Amadou Dia juked his way to space on the left side of the Seattle defense and slid a ball across the goalmouth, where Dwyer swiped it in.
“When a team plays a lot of reserve players, those guys are going to put forth their best effort,” Schmid said. “They want to play. You saw a lot of them collapse on the field after the game because they left everything that they had on their field. I never put too much stock into that. We’ve gotten some good results from a reserve team in the past.”
Sporting outshot Seattle, 12-9, and put seven shots on target to Seattle’s three. It was the 12th MLS meeting between the clubs, and none have been settled by more than one goal.
The added point kept SKC two clear of the playoff red line in a clustered Western Conference, where six points separate first place from sixth.
Seattle returns to league play Sunday with a home match against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808