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Sounders held to scoreless draw as Sporting sits deep on defense

The Sounders and Clint Dempsey, left, couldn’t find a way to break through a resolute Kansas City defense on Saturday in Seattle. (Associated Press)
The Sounders and Clint Dempsey, left, couldn’t find a way to break through a resolute Kansas City defense on Saturday in Seattle. (Associated Press)

SEATTLE – Scoring a goal is hard.

A soccer field is big and the nets are small. When a game kicks off, there are 11 men between an attacking team and the opposing goal — in front of which stands the only player on the pitch who is allowed to use his hands.

By the very nature of the game itself, scoring a goal in soccer is a precious rarity, a temporary overturning of long odds.

Scoring is hard, especially when your opponent is as single-mindedly determined to prevent it as Sporting Kansas City was Saturday night.

Sporting got what it came to CenturyLink Field for, holding the Sounders to a 0-0 draw and escaping Seattle with a point.

“Right from the beginning of the game, they were trying to kill the game,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “They were taking 25 to 30 seconds for every goal kick.

“In a game like this, you’re not going to get 10 or 15 chances. You’re only going to get one or two. You need to finish them when you can. That didn’t fall for us today.”

Kansas City designated player Graham Zusi, plagued by a nagging hamstring injury, started the game on the bench. Forward Dom Dwyer was scratched from the Sporting starting lineup just minutes before kickoff with a neck injury.

Without two of its key attacking players, injury-depleted Sporting opted to barely even try to push into Seattle’s half of the field.

“With their game on Wednesday and the fact that they had so many injuries, they really only had one choice,” Seattle forward Chad Barrett said. “And that was to sit in.”

Kansas City massed numbers behind the ball and surrendered most of the possession time. It defended stubbornly and had no qualms about breaking up the rhythm of the game with timely fouls.

Attacking midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who entered the weekend as the top assist provider in MLS, spent much of the game camped in front of his back line, providing defensive cover.

The first-half summary in two numbers: Seattle had 69.5 percent of the possession and zero shots on goal.

Windows of opportunity cracked open for the Sounders only to quickly slam shut again. Tyrone Mears shook free on the right wing but his low cross was hacked clear. Chad Barrett found a crease but flubbed his shot. Lamar Neagle rose high for a header but angled his shot inches wide.

In the second half, Clint Dempsey got free at the back post, but the blur of Amadou Dia flashing across his face led to a distracted header over the bar.

“(We needed) just a little bit of luck, I guess,” Barrett said. “There was that one that went through Dempsey’s legs off the header from me, and that really never happens. It was just one of those nights where we couldn’t find the net.”

Even after those 90 minutes of frustrating ugliness, the Sounders (6-3-2) now sit in second place in the Western Conference, a single point back of Dallas with a game in hand.


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