The Sounders survived a blustery evening, a late scare and multiple post-match scuffles to prevail 2-1 over the Fire in Chicago Saturday night, making for a second consecutive undefeated April.
Cruising along with a 2-0 lead, the Sounders were shocked in the 89th minute by a corner kick from Marco Pappa that went in untouched over the outstretched hands of goalie Michael Gspurning.
Pappa’s left-footed bullet bent perfectly with the high wind and seemed to surprise Gspurning as it sailed into the far post and banged into the back of the net. It was only the third goal allowed by the Sounders this season.
“It was really unbelievable,” Gspurning said. “We played the second half against the wind. So I would say 70 percent, it was a good corner kick, and 30 percent was the 50 mph wind picking it up, so I had to step up and by that time it had hit the post and gone in.
“Im always a positive guy but I know it will be on all the season highlights now with this goal.”
The score broke a streak of 333 minutes without a goal, and seemed to unsettle the Sounders. The Fire brought pressure and had a shot on goal in the fourth minute of added time that required Gspurning to grab the ball and fall to the turf for his fourth save of the night.
As the game ended, Leo Gonzalez was felled by a hard tackle that inspired angry shouts and numerous shoving matches between the sides. Brad Evans was in the midst of the altercations and had to be pulled away by teammates. Coaches and reserve came into the field to break things up as the disputes lingered for more than three minutes.
In an unusual post-match move, head coach Sigi Schmid called the team together on the field for a lecture on the late letdown.
Regarding the melee, Schmid said, “I think it was a pretty aggressive tackle right at the end of the game from Anibaba on Leo Gonzalez. Obviously it was a frustrating game for Chicago because they had some great opportunities, and its one of those days where it just didnt go in for them. I think that frustration all came out in the end a little bit.
“Obviously theres accusations in there, you know, some of their guys probably saying our guys pushed them, one of our guys said he got punched. The referees will have a look at it and look at the videotape.
In the 39th minute, David Estrada’s pass into the middle of the penalty area was deflected off Fire defender Arne Friedrich’s left knee and dribbled past goalkeeper Sean Johnson for an own goal. But a review at halftime changed the credit to Estrada.
In the 65th minute, Eddie Johnson scored his first goal as a Sounder, pushing in a rebound off goalie Johnson, who then fell on the Seattle striker’s ankle. He resumed play after a couple of minutes and played the full game.
I guess for a striker ,its good for confidence,” Eddie Johnson said. “The team sacrificed a lot bringing me here. Its my second game and its important to get off to a good start. Without the effort from my teammates and the guys around me tonight, I dont think that goal would have been possible for me.
“It wasnt the best performance from us, but sometimes you have to win ugly.”
The three points in the franchise’s 100th MLS game gave the Sounders a 4-1-1 record and improved their mark against the Fire to 4-0-3. Chicago fell to 2-2-2.
The Sounders host the Los Angles Galaxy Wednesday.