One team entered the day on a five-match unbeaten streak in which it had been averaging better than two goals scored per game.

The other team entered the day not only winless through its first three games of 2018, it had had yet to score or even finish a match with a full 11 players on the field.

The first team, Sporting Kansas City, stuck true to its guns on Saturday, while the second team, the Seattle Sounders, made some definite improvements. The result was a tense and tightly contested 2-2 draw on a cold and snow-dappled afternoon at Children’s Mercy Park.

Sporting (4-1-2) extended its unbeaten run to six matches and remained in first place in the MLS Western Conference with 14 points. Seattle (0-3-1) did not end its winless start to the league season, although the defending Western Conference champions ended an MLS scoreless drought of 400-plus minutes, dating back to last season’s conference finals, when Will Bruin tallied in first-half stoppage time. Despite the draw they remain in last place in the 12-team West standings.

Playing on its home field, Sporting started strong and generally kept the Sounders on their heels for the bulk of the first half an hour. They had a clear-cut chance in the 23rd minute when Daniel Salloi beat a defender down the left side of the penalty area and found a wide-open Khiry Shelton. However, Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei made a strong, reactionary kick save on Shelton’s shot from five yards to keep things level.

Sporting took the lead, however, in the 34th minute after Johnny Russell drew a foul on Sounders left back Nouhou along the right side of the penalty area. Ilie Sanchez stepped up to convert the ensuing spot kick, firing the ball high over a sprawling Frei.

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Seattle appeared set to head into halftime trailing for the third time in four MLS outings, but Bruin tied things up in the third minute of stoppage time. Bruin actually had two golden chances on the same series as a Nicolas Lodeiro free kick found Bruin’s head, and the big striker nodded the ball off the crossbar. On the ensuing throw-in, Chad Marshall’s flicked header found an open Bruin, who poked the ball past Sporting ‘keeper Tim Melia from a few yards out.

The goal seemed to spark the Sounders after the halftime whistle as they began playing with more urgency and finding additional space in Kansas City’s defensive half. They nearly won their own penalty in the 58th minute when referee Drew Fischer ruled Sporting defender Jimmy Medranda had committed a handball in the box while sliding to the ground. After using video review, however, Fischer reversed his decision.

The 68th-minute addition of Osvaldo Alonso, who hadn’t seen the field since last September due to a leg injury, gave further life to the Rave Green, and they took a 2-1 lead in the 73rd minute.

Alex Roldan started the scoring play by winning a loose ball near midfield and finding Bruin sprinting behind the defense. Bruin held up the ball and found a streaking Cristian Roldan with a late run, and Roldan hit a one-time shot that beat Melia to the lower left corner.

Sporting answered five minutes later when Medranda played a long ball to right back Graham Zusi. The former United States Men’s National Team member made a 20-yard run straight toward the goal and chipped the ball over a helpless Frei. Nouhou appeared to be caught out of position on the play, after attempting to score at the other end of the field, and Zusi had acres of space in which to run and eventually score the equalizer.

Both teams had looks at goal in the final 10 minutes of play, with Frei making one of his six saves by smothering an open Sanchez header off a Zusi free kick.

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Kansas City out-shot Seattle 12-10 and had eight shots on target, compared to Seattle’s three. Sporting also had an edge in possession, 59 percent to 41 percent, although the Sounders won the majority of duels, 69-53.

Fischer doled out five yellow cards on the day. Jordan McCrary, Cristian Roldan and Alonso went in the book for Seattle, while Roger Espinoza and Medranda followed suit for Sporting.

The match also marked a historic occasion in MLS history as Cristian Roldan and Alex Roldan became the 11th set of brothers to play together and the seventh to start together.

Kansas City finishes its two-game homestand on Friday, April 20 against the Vancouver Whitecaps, while Seattle returns home to take on Minnesota United on Sunday, April 22.

By Neil Pierson of ProstAmerika


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