The Seattle Sounders ripped out Sporting Kansas City’s hearts once again in second-half stoppage time.
In a rivalry marked by fierce matches and late Seattle game-winners, the Sounders’ Djimi Traore provided the latest stunner in the 94th minute Wednesday at Sporting Park.
Just when a scoreless draw appeared imminent, Zach Scott skipped a throw-in from the right side into Sporting KC’s box, where Seattle’s Brad Evans appeared to nick the ball in front of the goal. Defender Aurelien Collin had a chance to clear the ball but whiffed with a swing of his right leg. The ball wound up at Traore’s feet and, well, Sporting KC is all too familiar with what happens next.
Catching a stunned Jimmy Nielsen flat-footed in the middle of the goal, Traore poked the ball into the right side as the Sounders escaped with a stunning 1-0 win.
“It was like jumping in an ice bath,” Nielsen said of his reaction to the goal. “I was like (geez) what’s going on here?”
Seattle, 2-3-3, improved to 6-1-1 all time against Sporting KC, 5-4-2, in MLS action. Seven of the club’s 11 goals in the series have come in the final 15 minutes, including four game-winners in stoppage time.
The Sounders beat the then-Wizards on a 92nd-minute goal April 17, 2010, and pulled out another 1-0 win with a goal in the 93rd minute on May 21, 2011.
Seattle ended Sporting KC’s 14-match unbeaten streak Aug. 6, 2011, with goals in the 90th and 92nd minutes of a 2-1 win.
Sporting KC did knock off the Sounders in a penalty-kick shootout Aug. 8, 2012, to win the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, but even that game featured an 86th-minute equalizer by Scott to force extra time.
It was actually an earlier giveaway by Collin that set in motion Sporting KC’s undoing.
During the 93rd minute, Collin was dribbling up field uncontested after Nielsen collected a ball in the box and rolled it toward Collin, his All-Star centerback.
But rather than blast the ball deep into Sounders territory, Collin tried a square ball to the left flank for Ike Opara, who was making his second straight start in place of an injured Matt Besler.
The pass — well wide of Opara — was intercepted by Seattle, which won the decisive throw-in a half-minute later.
“It is a monumental mistake as we came out of the back to play that ball square,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “At that point, we have Kei (Kamara) and C.J. (Sapong) up front, so that ball needs to be played forward. It’s unacceptable to play that ball the way it was played.”
The loss spoiled Kamara’s return.
During a second half that didn’t feature a shot on goal for either side until Traore’s game-winner, Kamara’s entrance, which drew a deafening roar from the crowd of 18,602, the club’s 22nd straight shutout, seemed destined to be the night’s highlight.
Wearing neon green cleats and rocking his trademark dreadlocks, Kamara entered the match in the 73rd minute for Jacob Peterson.
Kamara returned Monday from a three-month loan with Norwich City of the English Premier League, where he notched a goal and an assist in 11 matches, including seven including starts.
Otherwise, there wasn’t a lot for Sporting KC’s fan to cheer, especially in the second half.
“The second half we got a little tired in the middle of the park,” Vermes said. “It was hard to make subs based on the guys we had out there already, but in the first half I thought we created a lot of good chances in and around the box and I thought we dictated play.”
Before halftime, Sporting KC outshot the Sounders 10-5 and owned 58 percent of the possession. It just didn’t produce a goal.
“For as well as we played in the first half, that’s how bad we played in the second half,” midfielder Graham Zusi said. “It was just a horrible second half for us. It’s not anything they did. They didn’t really have too many sniffs at our goal. Passing was off, touches were off — just a poor second half.”