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D.C., Sounders battle to physical draw

CruzAlonso (Getty)


WASHINGTON — There were no goals to speak of when D.C. United and the Seattle Sounders wrapped proceedings Saturday, but that's not to say the match was completely devoid of drama.

The teams traded opportunities throughout, even though neither side found much of a rhythm in what often amounted to a battle of physicality in the middle of the park.

But no player, it turns out, was as influential as the woodwork on the south end of RFK Stadium, as the match's best chances came when United striker Hamdi Salihi struck it in the first half and Seattle substitute Marc Burch — making his return to D.C. amid a chorus of boos — rang it in second-half stoppage time.

"Offensively, I don't think either team was really at their best," United coach Ben Olsen said. "It was a pretty physical battle. I think they came here with the thought of getting numbers behind the ball and having a real blue-collar day."

Burch drew the ire of the D.C. faithful when he made remarks to The Seattle Times earlier in the week criticizing United's decision to let him go after five years with the club. The left-sided player, who had entered the games just seconds before, very nearly had the last laugh when a rebound from goalkeeper Joe Willis off an Osvaldo Alonso shot fell to him.

His header, however, hit the crossbar.

"I should have pushed it out a little wider, but it fell right to their player," Willis said. "And I was lucky that the post was there to help me out."

The opportunity capped a second half that was more open than the stagnant opening stanza. Boosted by the influential entrances of Chris Pontius and Branko Boskovic, United repeatedly forced Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning into action. The Austrian came up with his finest save in the 69th minute, reaching across his goal to deny Nick DeLeon's near-post free kick bid.

"It was one of those games where it was run and gun," DeLeon said. "By the time you saw it in the second half, it was just wide open because everyone was so tired."

United (1-2-2) nearly took the lead midway through the first half when Salihi made a near-post run to connect with a low service from DeLeon. But the still-scoreless Designated Player knocked his one-time effort off the bar.

Until Burch nearly played hero, the Sounders' closest chance came in the 34th minute, when an isolated Fredy Montero steered a point-blank header just wide.

Seattle (2-1-1) used a stellar effort from Alonso to negate United playmaker Dwayne De Rosario, who found little room to operate with the Cuban midfielder constantly nipping at his heels. The Sounders' all-around workmanlike performance was music to coach Sigi Schmid's ears after his team disappointed in a 1-0 home loss to San Jose the previous week.

"The battle that we showed was very good," Schmid said. "I thought last week San Jose out-competed us a little bit, so I wanted to make sure that we came out and competed. And I thought we did that from the opening whistle to the end."

United, on the other hand, couldn't replicate the offensive fireworks of their 4-1 win over FC Dallas last week. While the buildup was sometimes there, the final ball never was.

"I think Seattle right now is a better team than Dallas," Olsen said. "They were pretty charged up physically. They were ready to go."


  1. I wouldn’t expect Zak back until at least two months. Less than a half against Gonzaga means there’s still recovery before he can go up against MLS reserves, and from there, back to MLS. Minimum of two months, IMO.

    Though obviously I’m not his doctor. Just had my hopes dashed with CD9 before the WC.

  2. Nah, that’s not fair to both teams. I thought Alonso had a huge impact. He very much negated DeRo in the first half, it was his shot that Willis parried and Burch almost put the rebound in. I thought as a team, Seattle played high pressure very well in the first half Gsparing and Parke also stood out to me on Seattle.

    For DCU, Willis wasn’t tested often but looked good (again). DeLeon continues to be a multifaceted revelation, Jakovic and Dudar both had a couple of bad balls but mostly were excellent in the middle.

    Both teams played hard and smart. Seattle ran out of gas towards the end. That and DeRo moving to forward (and away from Alonso) allowed more combination play by DCU and they looked far more threatening in the last 20 minutes.

    It wasn’t Barca on the field or even a goal-fest. But it was smart, hard-working, disciplined soccer by two sides determined not to make a mistake yet not just packing in it and putting 10 or 11 guys behind the ball.

  3. Its going to be difficult to see exactly how good Seattle can be offensively until they get everyone healthy. Johansson + Rosales on the right side vs. Scott and Levesque = an huge upgrade in creativity. Once Seattle has those two back next week as well as Steve Zakuani’s return looming in the next month or so, they should be more entertaining to watch. Right now, if opposing teams can double up on Montero and hold off Fernandez then they can mute the attack pretty well.

  4. Don’t bother, he only shows up to bash DCU. According to his predictions last year, this game was to be played in Baltimore. Two years ago it was St. Louis….ect. DCUnited played well, with a lucky (er) bounce or two, either one of these teams could have had the 3 points. Johnny Ramone’s ghost trolling is worse than his music.

  5. Well, we did beat Dallas which is considered by just about everyone to be a quality team. You really think the Sounders were that much better on the evening?

  6. A scoreless tie against one of the top teams in the league is pretty good, especially if they were the league leaders in goals.

  7. DC is lucky Philly is so awful. Otherwise, we’d all notice how bad DC is. This game was unwatchable & DC fans are patting themselves on the back for getting a scoreless tie. That speaks volumes about how how awful they are.

  8. A year ago, DCU would have found a way to lose this game…giving up a counter at the end of the first or second half. So to work hard, stay compact and play smart defense is a big plus for DCU and a sign of progress over the past 2 years. And that also explains part of the reason Seattle didn’t show they kind of attack many of their fans have come to expect.

    If Sigi were open about his tactical decisions, I think he’d say that he watched the film of DCU against Dallas. Where FCD gave DCU a lot of space with the ball (and you saw the result, Seattle started out initially with a lot of high pressure. That combined with how effective Alonso is (and how that tends to negate DeRo’s effectiveness as an A-mid), and that explains DCU’s struggles offensively. That plus it’s still obvious that DCU’s players are still learning each other…I saw one instance where DeRo laid a ball off for DeLeon who cut the other way, at least 4 late runs by Salihi who is still figuring out where people are likely to play the ball, twice where Santos played the ball into space as a target man and….no-one was there.

    I was very impressed with DeLeon’s workrate and hustle. Besides the skill on the ball and ability to create chances, he earns a lot of possession.

  9. Not a great game to watch honestly. Not to many clear cut chances, really disappointed with the fairly easy pass Fernandez missed in the 2nd half that would have almost certainly been a goal.

  10. And Perry Kitchen looks like he is back and recovered from the olympics. I would like to know what happened to Saragosa, however. Also need an update on the injury to R.R.

    Hamdi will break through soon, or have a heart attack. LOL. u can see two things, the talent is there, and yes he is worried that he is not finishing. But he is just unlucky right now. hopefully he can tough it out till he bags one. Don’t let the pressure get to him too much.

  11. good physical game.

    Glad none of those ridiculous seattle fan predictions of 3 nil came true. : ) but am disappointed with the tie.

    Funny that marc burch hardly played, but it would have really sucked if he scored.

    they contained dero but we contained montero, it was a huge defensive effort by both sides.

    For D.C. Subs turned starters cruz and deleon were both fiery and dangerous all day, again. Deleon had some great chances.


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