KANSAS CITY, Kan. – A desperate Sounders team looking to avoid the worst start in franchise history sent out a young brother combination in hopes of generating a spark.
Having Cristian Roldan in the defensive midfield Sunday at Sporting Kansas City was a given; the addition of his rookie younger brother, Alex, on left wing for his first Major League Soccer start certainly was not. The Roldan brothers combined for a go-ahead second-half goal in a match that ultimately ended in a 2-2 draw and a long-awaited first point of the season for the Rave Green.
“It is a tough place to play, so we’re happy with going home with a point,” the younger Roldan, a one-time star for Seattle University, said. “Hopefully, this will be something that will get us going.”
The Roldans became the seventh brother combination to start a game together in MLS history and the first since Jona and Jonathan dos Santos did it last season for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
For a while, it looked like the move would pay off in a stunning victory for the Sounders, who haven’t won at Sporting KC since the 2013 season. The Sounders, having scored their first goal of the season when Will Bruin struck paydirt just seconds before halftime, took a 2-1 lead in the 73rd minute on a Cristian Roldan strike to the far corner of the net.
Alex Roldan had gotten the play started with a good ball ahead to Bruin, who held up the defenders long enough for Cristian Roldan to race into position. Bruin calmly slipped the ball to a wide-open Roldan, who drilled it past goalkeeper Alex Melia to his right.
Alas, the Sounders could not hold the lead.
Sounders left back Nouhou, who had a terrible afternoon defensively, was caught upfield in the 78th minute and watched as midfielder Graham Zusi raced by him for a through ball. Zusi waltzed in alone on goalkeeper Stefan Frei from the right side, beating him from close range to even things up.
“It’s going to sting for a bit because we were able to go up 2-1 on them late in the game and then gave one up,” Alex Roldan said.
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer also wasn’t happy with the late lapse.
“We should have won the game,” he said. “But that’s how MLS is.”
Schmetzer had kept highly touted signing Magnus Wolff Eikrem on the bench and inserted the rookie Roldan instead, hoping he and opposite wing Handwalla Bwana might jump-start the team’s moribund attack.
The Sounders were missing a suspended Clint Dempsey and Kelvin Leerdam and an injured Victor Rodriguez and Harry Shipp.
“The young kids did exactly what we asked them to do, which was to bring some energy into the game and to bring some of their soccer to the game.” Schmetzer said. “It’s not just when you talk about young players that all they do is run around and are good athletes. These two players actually have some soccer in them.”
The Sounders, now 0-3-1, had never lost their first four games and – despite their offensive flourish – might have gone down to defeat again had Frei not made several key stops throughout.
They trailed 1-0 and had run their goal-less streak to a franchise record 315 minutes to start the season before Bruin scored in stoppage time at the first half’s end. Up to that point, the half had been a tale of two Nouhous – with the Cameroonian creating some early chances before a pair of lapses led to the first KC goal.
Nouhou had nearly cost Seattle a goal in the 32nd minute when he lost his man on a 35-yard cross and saw the ball headed just wide of the net. Less than a minute later, Scottish winger Johnny Russell, formerly of Derby County in the English Premier League, blew by Nouhou like a Ferrari would a Prius.
Nouhou had little choice but to upend Russell in the box, leading to an Ilea Sanchez penalty kick that was buried just under the crossbar for a 1-0 lead. The Sounders at that point had been outscored 6-0 on the season and 9-0 their prior four-plus games, counting the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League loss to Chivas.
But then, as stoppage time began, Nouhou again tried to make something happen along the left flank and this time was rewarded when fouled just outside the box. Nicolas Lodeiro served up the free kick to Bruin, who headed it off the crossbar from six yards out.
Play continued and a poor KC clearance led to a Lodeiro throw-in that Chad Marshall flicked to Bruin, standing just a few yards from the net. Bruin tapped it past KC keeper Melia to give the Sounders a massive emotional lift just seconds before the halftime – momentum that carried over into the second half.
“Especially here in Kansas City, it’s tough to play,” said Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, who played his first minutes of the season as a second half substitute. “We let the three points go, but one point is good. We have to focus now on Minnesota (next Sunday) and be happy with the point.”
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