Sept. 29, 2013: Seattle Sounders 1, Red Bulls 1
That's the best way to describe the Red Bulls' 1-1 draw against the Sounders last night in Seattle.
The Red Bulls went into the game shorthanded, arguably their own fault, with their third and fourth choice strikers up front and a third choice centerback who gave up two penalty kicks in his last two appearances. It was up to him, Ibrahim Sekagya, and Markus Holgersson to shut down Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins. And they did.
On the other side of the ball, it was Peguy Luyindula, who was instructed to drop back to start the attack. Sure, the line-up graphic at the start of ESPN's broadcast showed the Red Bulls playing a 4-4-2, but it looked much closer to a 4-4-1-1 or a 4-5-1 in practice.
With a weakened line-up, the Sounders did look a bit uninspired at the start, with the Red Bulls getting an early chance in the first 60 seconds, but a late penalty after a Holgersson hand ball put them up and things were looking (and sounding, from my couch) a bit more Seattle-y. The crowd woke up and so did the team.
Things opened up in the second half and eventually the Red Bulls clawed one back with Tim Cahill using his feet, rather than his head, to level the game after chances clanged off the crossbar and post. Fabian Espindola, who was on an island for stretches, had an opportunity, too, but opted for a bicycle kick rather than a header.
Much was made about the Red Bulls' playing a makeshift line-up, the Sounders' hot streak and the turf in the lead up to the game, lending, perhaps, to a bit of overconfidence from the home team and it's fans. That proved unfounded. The Red Bulls went toe-to-toe with the Sounders for 90 minutes and had, by my rough estimation, anyway, the better scoring chances.
But the goal wasn't so much to win as it was to leave with a point, the Supporters' Shield lead and a nice cushion atop the East. A win would've made things far easier in the search for a first, legitimate trophy, but you can't complain about a draw, especially under the circumstances (the Sounders are 10-1-4 at home, as was mentioned on the broadcast, they rarely lose late leads at CenturyLink Field).
With a draw, the Sounders-Red Bulls clash isn't quite over with yet. The Red Bulls, while they sit atop the league, have three games left. If they're to make the Shield theirs -- and I think they can or else I wouldn't have been harping on it for weeks now -- they need some help from whoever is playing the Sounders in addition to taking care of things on their own end, as the Sounders have two games in hand.
Right now, though, I feel good basking in the reflected glory of a draw.