Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City: Chippy, Physical Match Ends 1-1

The Seattle Sounders put in their best performance in quite some time but could only manage a draw in a "spirited" match against Sporting Kansas City.

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Sounders Get A Point From Chippy Game Against Sporting Kansas City

All of the scoring was out of the way early on in this one, with Jacob Peterson's 8th-minute deflected shot cancelled out seven minutes later by Patrick Ianni's stunning scissored volley. From there on out it was a war of attrition, with the Sounders crafting the better chances but Sporting KC equal to the challenge with some excellent last-ditch defending and both sides mixing things up with some very physical play. The culmination came with the sending off of Alvaro Fernandez in the 91st minute, and the red card was well deserved; the Sounders Designated Player went into a retaliatory two-footed scissor challenge that was all but short of a dare to referee Jair Marrufo.

While Fernandez's actions are inexcusable, it's far from a surprise that things came to such a head. Marrufo lost control of the game very early on, and that was plainly evident in the physicality of the play from both sides. It's unfortunate how often MLS games devolve into discussions about the officiating, but it's far too often impossible to ignore the contributions made by the referees. Seattle and Kansas City are, on their day, two of the league's most exciting teams. Having the match devolve into something resembling a a street fight serves no one.

The officiating and loss of Fernandez for Sunday's game against Portland (and likely more) aside, this was an encouraging performance for the Sounders. A month ago, this would have felt like a strong performance that was wasted due to points having been left on the table. After the team's recent struggles, putting in a solid performance against one of the league's best teams felt almost like a win. That's not, ultimately, where a team of Seattle's quality wants to be. But it is at the very least a step in the right direction.

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Steve Zakuani Returns To The Sounders First-Team Squad

For the first time since suffering a severe broken leg on April 22nd of 2011, Steve Zakuani will make his return to the Seattle Sounders squad after being named to the substitutes bench for tonight's game against Sporting Kansas City by head coach Sigi Schmid. Zakuani's recovery has been mired by complications such as nerve damage and compartment syndrome, and the winger has admitted to struggling mightily with the psychological and emotional side of things; though being named to the substitute's bench is no guarantee that Zakuani will play, it does represent a massive step that's far closer to the end of the process than the beginning.

If Zakuani makes an appearance tonight, it will most likely be as a striker; though his technical skills are a major part of what has in the past made him such a dangerous winger, they are also one of the most difficult things to regain without significant playing time. That's less of a concern if Zakuani is stationed up top as a late-game substitution, and it's also where he played when starting for the reserves last month and has spent most of his time in training. Still, at this point it doesn't matter where he plays or for how long Zakuani is on the pitch; just seeing him back where he belongs will be enough for now.

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