Heading into Saturday's match at Seattle, the Fire knew that it would be a tough task to leave the Pacific Northwest with a result. But after 90 minutes of supercharged soccer action, the Fire was able escape Qwest Field with a point, tying the expansion Sounders 0-0. The match, played in front of yet another Seattle crowd of 30,000+, was played at a blistering pace and the Sounders set the tone right from the start placing a ton of pressure on the Fire and completely dominating Chicago for the opening 10 minutes of play.
In fact, Seattle was unlucky to not open up an early lead against the Fire, hitting the post (recurring theme here...) in the 2nd minute following a Freddie Ljungberg corner kick.
The Seattle crowd (which was in full voice from the opening whistle) went into completely-bonkers mode following their team's near miss and they continued to push their squad on; even contributing to a 16th minute chance. This opportunity for the Sounders saw All-Star forward Fredy Montero send a chip just over an open net after he ran onto a ball following some awful communication (no doubt influenced by the crowd noise...) between Fire center back Wilman Conde and goalie Jon Busch.
Eventually though the Fire did settle down and the visitors started to launch some attacks of their own. The Fire's first real chance came in the 19th minute of play when midfielder Marco Pappa ran onto a Patrick Nyarko ball and lashed a low strike just wide of the far post.
The game's frenetic pace continued throughout the remainder of the first half and Seattle should have put the ball away twice but a wide open Montero chipped over again in the 27th and former-Fire forward Nate Jaqua had two point blank efforts denied by Jon Busch in the 37th.
The match went into the half scoreless and when the second period began, things got even more intense as the match started to get chippy and the cards started flying out of referee Baldomero Toledo's pocket.
John Thorrington was Toledo's (who also reffed the Fire's June 13th loss to D.C. United - he called two controversial penalties in that match...) first booking of the second half and his 54th minute challenge on Ljungberg saw him (deservedly in my opinion...) get sent off with his second yellow card, temporarily putting the Fire a man down.
But Seattle's man advantage wouldn't last long and only five minutes after Thorrington was tossed, Ljungberg got himself thrown out too. Ljungberg went absolutely hysterical on Toledo when he didn't get a call after a tripping just outside the box and promptly received a yellow for dissent. But Ljungberg didn't take the yellow and run, oh no. Instead, the Swedish international completely lost his lingonberries and his actions got him a second yellow and booted from the match.
With both teams playing with 10 men the game slowed down a bit and the players fatigue started to show. But once the 80th minute rolled around the sides seemed to get a bit of a second wind and each club made a final push for a goal.
Seattle came painfully close in the 80th when Montero (who - if you couldn't tell by the number of times his name appears in this entry - was very active in the match) launched a right footed shot from 25 yards and hit the intersection of the crossbar and the far post.
But the Fire wouldn't be outdone and Washington native Brandon Prideaux came oh-so-close to getting his first career goal in the 88th when his header of Justin Mapp's corner kick cruelly hit the crossbar.
That was about it as far as chances went and the teams finished off the match scoreless. The Fire will be happy to walk away from the match with the point and Seattle will no doubt feel jilted not only by Ljungberg's ejection, but also by hitting the woodwork so many times.
Before I sign off though I wanted to pose a few questions to you guys:
- What did you think about the two ejections? I understood both but thought that Ljungberg's was a bit harsh...
- How about the Seattle crowd? Easily the best atmosphere the Fire has seen this year and I thought they added a lot to the match.
- Your thoughts on Denis Hamlett's tactics? I personally liked him sliding Tim Ward into the central midfield and inserting Brandon Prideaux into the right back spot. I thought that Ward did excellent in the middle of the field...