On a night when finishing clearly was still rusty, it was the goalkeepers who came ready to play on Friday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
In their Group B opener of the MLS is Back Tournament, the Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes played to a 0-0 draw, but it was several key saves from respective goalkeepers, Stefan Frei and Daniel Vega, that stole the show in Orlando.
Frei finished with eight saves while San Jose’s Vega tallied six as both goalkeepers put on strong performances in a match that also saw 28 shots produced — the most taken in a match so far in MLS’s return-to-play competition.
San Jose almost opened the scoring in the 70th minute when a strike from Jackson Yueill from outside the box was deflected off a Sounders player, finding its way on target before Frei made a leaping save to deny the opportunity.
In the 84th minute, it was Seattle which almost provided the late winner when a crossing ball from Kelvin Leerdam found Raul Ruidiaz, who struck the final ball before Vega came through with the pivotal stop.
There was a moment of controversy, however, when in the 60th minute Ruidiaz was pushed outside the box by Earthquakes defender Guram Kashia. Referee Drew Fischer opted not to call the infraction.
The Sounders take on the Chicago Fire on Tuesday at 9 a.m. The Earthquakes play on Wednesday against the Vancouver Whitecaps at 10:30 p.m.
Man of the Match
Stefan Frei: The Sounders goalkeeper finished with 8 saves, including a couple stops to earn the clean sheet for the Sounders.
Moment of the Match
No-call foul on Ruidiaz: A key moment that could have altered the match when Guram Kashia looked to shove down Seattle’s Raul Ruidiaz outside the box.
Match to Forget
Andres Rios: The Argentine striker got the nod as San Jose’s lead striker and failed to generate much on the night, managing two shots.
Thus far, the competition is not exactly capturing the public imagination. I suppose it’s better than the International Champions Cup rubbish we’d normally be subjected to during July, but I’d like to see it become a little more watchable.