SEATTLE — How high does early sending off rank on the list of things you never want to see in a big match? Probably depends on the nature of the dismissal. What you think of Wednesday’s sending off likely determines how you feel about referee Ricardo Salazar.
Man of the Match: Seattle’s team effort was so balanced that it took over 90 minutes for a Sounder to distinguish himself, but when Real Salt Lake’s two best chances came in second half stoppage time, it was Michael Gspurning that preserved the point. A lunging stop on a late Chris Schuler drive coupled with some drama denying Jonny Steele saw Gspurning take the night’s honors.
Packaged for takeaway:
To Seattle fans, Salazar has become a pantomime villain, a role he carried into tonight’s came thanks to (among other incidents) his sending off of Patrick Ianni in this year’s U.S. Open Cup final. A collective social media moan could be heard when his appointment was announced earlier this week. It’s as if Sounders’ fans knew he would have a part in Wednesday’s result.
That part came in the 30th minute when Zach Scott took down Javier Morales just outside the of the Seattle area. It was a clumsy challenge that ended with Scott falling on top of Morales, more harmless, poorly-executed wrestling move than malicious tackle. In light of Scott’s 10th minute yellow card, the play was reckless. Scott put himself in position to be sent off, a result Salazar confirmed with a second booking.
The broader question: How often do you see that foul result in a dismissal? It wasn’t the harshest call you’ll see this season, but most referees would have kept the card in their pocket. While Salazar’s entitled to his decision, was it a fair call? Considering what players expect from a typical MLS match?
“Lord help us if we get Salazar in the playoffs,” Schmid said post-game. His halftime comments will likely earn him a fine, describing Salazar as Real Salt Lake’s 12th man.
Until the sending off, it had been a relatively even match. Seattle, as they’ve done previously against RSL, tried to beat Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers with long balls targeting Fredy Montero. RSL responded by patiently building through the middle, trying to pass their way through Seattle’s midfield.
After the red card, little changed except Seattle’s defense, which naturally became more compact and less aggressive. Brad Evans, who was forced into a start at right back, had to play the rest of the night in the middle, Schmid sacrificing Sammy Ochoa to bring Mike Seamon on at right.
Despite the changes, the Sounders still had success targeting Montero, while RSL was unable to tap their way through Seattle’s defense.
The final part of the match saw the game fall into a familiar, redundant pattern. RSL would pass their way to the edge of the Sounders’ defensive third, try to make their way through the middle only to see a Seattle player break up play before Osvaldo Alonso vacuumed up the ball.
In that way, it was a very impressive performance from Seattle, even if Real Salt Lake made the obligatory late go of it. Up until that 92nd minute, there was little doubt Seattle would take at least a point.
Given the circumstances, the result is a good one for Seattle, even if the bigger picture sees it as a missed opportunity for both teams. The difference between second and third in either conference isn’t a big deal, so while the Sounders improved their chances of passing RSL in the West, the draw delivers a blow to each team’s chances of catching Sporting Kansas City for second in the overall standings.
Transfer rumor roundup: Schurrle to Newcastle, Spurs
Newcastle United reportedly leads the pack for the former Chelsea scorer, who is struggling to get time at BVB thanks to a glut of fantastic wingers including Christian Pulisic.
Magpies boss Rafa Benitez has a good relationship with the Westfalenstadion set, having taken Mikel Merino off their hands in August. Newcastle currently uses Christian Atsu on the left wing and Matt Ritchie on the right, but Schurrle can play center forward and Benitez may prefer to use the 27-year-old in the middle of his trident.
But they’ll face competition, and HITC says BVB is willing to pay half of his wages on an 18-month deal to keep him reasonable for some clubs. This could be a boon for Spurs.
Newcastle and Stoke City have also been linked with Galatasaray midfielder Papa “Badou” Ndiaye, with the Magpies said to have bid just a bit higher than the Potters but still under Gala’s buyout clause.
And here’s a wild one, according to ESPN: Chelsea’s rumored pursuit of current Premier League scorers now includes Marko Arnautovic. The audacious Austrian attacker cost West Ham around $35 million when his head was turned from Stoke City in the summer.
He didn’t perform well but Slaven Bilic, but David Moyes has been able to get some fine performances from the powerful Arnautovic. Chelsea has previously been linked with West Ham teammate Andy Carroll, Burnley’s Ashley Barnes, and Stoke’s Peter Crouch as it attempts to find a center forward to ease the burden placed on Alvaro Morata in his first Premier League season.
Voted “the best right back” in Europe between 1962-64, the former England and Blackpool captain also had a successful management and broadcasting career.
Armfield was a member of the 1962 and 1966 World Cup squads, though a toe injury kept him from his place in the starting lineup when England won the tournament.
He spent his entire playing career with Blackpool before managing Bolton Wanderers to promotion and Leeds United to the European Cup Final, righting the ship after Brian Clough’s infamous spell in charge of the club.
There’s a statue outside Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road, and the club legend has a stand named after him inside the venue.
While Zach’s night was certainly a memorable one for many reasons, it was Julie that arguably had the better performance — which included a goal in the 19th minute off of a close-range volley.
The USWNT had trailed through 14 minutes, but a combination of goals from Alex Morgan and Ertz in a span of two minutes quickly erased the deficit.
For Morgan, it was her 80th goal for the Stars and Stripes.
Meanwhile, a second-half brace from teenage sensation Mallory Pugh and Crystal Dunn’s finish with nine minutes to play proved to be the icing on the cake for Jill Ellis’ side, who kicked off 2018 with a bang.