Seattle, Washington, July 3, 2015 – Tyrone Mears’ goal through traffic late in the game was the difference maker as Seattle Sounders FC down shorthanded D.C. United by a 1-0 score at Century Link Field.
United not only had to deal with this being the fourth game in ten days on the road, but they also had to deal with the expulsion of their top player in Fabian Espindola when he was shown a straight red card in the 27th minute. Easily the games biggest talking point, Espindola appeared to throw a forearm into the throat of defender Zack Scott, who just minutes before received a yellow card of his own for a nasty head-to-head challenge on Espindola. It seems that the lesson of a six-game suspension at the beginning of the season for losing his cool and shoving a referee’s assistant in the playoff loss to Red Bull hasn’t exactly sunk in properly. United is a limited team offensively to begin with and going down to ten men for a foolish retaliation play only served to do United no justice whatsoever.
Despite the man disadvantage and being completely out possessed for the entire game, United and their typical staunch defense made things very difficult for the Sounders as they also were shorthanded of sorts with missing their top two goal scorers in Clint Dempsey (Gold Cup duty) and Obefemi Martins (injury) as well as Guatemalan midfielder Marco Pappa (Gold Cup). The Sounders were left with essentially long-range attempts on Andrew Dykstra’s goal (Bill Hamid was a late scratch) that were saved rather comfortably. The closest the home side got to scoring was a free kick attempt by Lamar Neagle that beat the wall but just flashed outside the near post of the goal midway through the second half.
Even with the tempo going the Sounders way, United did manage to carve out more than their share of chances to take the lead. Taylor Kemp’s angled free kick late in the game skipped off the top of the crossbar and then substitute Jairo Arrieta spun defender Chad Marshall around at the top of the penalty area only to see his right-footed effort fly over the crossbar.
Just when it seemed that United would get out of the NorthWest with a valiant hard-earned 0-0 draw, Mears ended that notion with a well-struck blast in the 88th minute. United were fully in all-hands-on-deck defense mode when a cross from the left flank came into the penalty area. The ball flew over all challengers and bounced into the path of Mears heading into the penalty area from his right-back position. The Englishman didn’t hesitate and unleashed a classy angled shot that easily flew into the far side netting and breaking the spirit of a well-fought effort from United.
United however had one more chance to even things up in stoppage time when Nick DeLeon took down former United goalkeeper Troy Perkins’ punch attempt from a Kemp free kick. DeLeon pulled the ball down and slid inside of two Sounders defenders and unleashed a left-footed blast that beat everyone except the crossbar as it bounded out for a Sounders goal kick.
Although United came out of this game with a brutal loss and a suspension for their next match from Espindola, the team will finally get an extended rest as they don’t play another match until two weeks from now on July 18th in Dallas. United has played the most games (21) in the league this season to date and now have only 13 league matches to play over the next four months. Rest should not be an issue moving forward through the end of the season. Even with the loss, United maintains their 11-point lead in the East but now teams with multiple games in hand (some have 5 or 6 games in hand on United) will have an opportunity to cut into United’s wide gap over the next two weekends.