The 44,697 who came to the Clink in search of good soccer received a double serving of emotional catharsis Sunday night. But the main event was bloody and stiff. In a match featuring 28 fouls, seven players cautioned, and one sent off, players lost their tempers and fans lost their minds in a bitter 1-1 draw with Sigi Schmid’s LA Galaxy.
When the Seattle Sounders parted ways with Schmid in 2016, many words of thanks and farewells were exchanged, even as Schmid left a club in turmoil with a 6-12-2 record. On Schmid’s return Sunday at the helm of the rival club, it became clear that Seattle (11-7-10, 43 points) had forgotten to change the locks on its emotions.
In his old stadium, Schmid knew all the psychological nooks and crannies of his old club. Los Angeles (7-14-6, 27 points) played with its elbows as much as its feet to disrupt Seattle’s flow.
Everyone was put off. Referee Drew Fischer booked five Galaxy players for a series of choppy fouls that ground the flow of the game into a fine paste.
Fans booed loudly when the Sounders retaliated, drawing fouls, including two yellow cards. They also booed when the Galaxy took the lead in the 25th minute on a Gyasi Zardes header.
Five minutes later, when Galaxy keeper Jon Kempin wound up on the turf injured, more boos rained down as the crowd assumed the keeper was milking the clock. Boos continued even after backup keeper Brian Rowe was checked into the game.
In the 85th minute, the mood changed abruptly when substitute Lamar Neagle scored off a bouncing cross to tie. But four minutes later, another mood swing followed a red card for Roman Torres, called for what seemed a phantom foul on Jermaine Jones on a breakaway.
Neagle said the adrenaline provided by the extracurricular activity made it difficult to stay composed.
“We were taking everything too quickly,” Neagle said. “We could have created possession, but in the final third we were rushing. That adrenaline when you get in off the bench is a big part. It got chippy right before I got in, and that feeds me as well.”
It took a match devoid of beautiful play to instill discord and ill will between clubs that have long been respected for playing the most attractive soccer in the league.
After a period of matches that began Seattle’s dominance stretching back to coach Brian Schmetzer’s signature 4-2 win in LA last September, the crackle of real rivalry returned to the series.
“I think the passion’s going to be there,” Scmid said. “The passion will be there next year for sure, unless we run into them this postseason.
“The (July 29 draw) was one where we had to change our organization defensively and be disciplined. We’ve gotten better at that, so now we can concentrate on getting out and playing offense.”
Sounders fans have plenty of reasons to be happy with the tenure of Schmetzer. He helped win the club a league championship, and has returned the Sounders near the top of the Western Conference with six regular-season games left.
But if Schmid, Schmetzer’s mentor and predecessor, gets the Galaxy to the playoffs, the prospect of a postseason meeting between the clubs will make Sunday’s testiness seem like a walk in the park.
Jordan Morris pulled up short with what was described as a right hamstring strain just past the hour mark Sunday. Morris went to the ground after chasing down a long ball in the 61st minute. He has three goals in 24 games this season.
“He’s got a strained hamstring, so we’ll take a look at it,” Schmetzer said. “There’s nothing we can do about it tonight. He’ll be fine.”
Earlier in the season, Morris, 22, was nagged by a calf injury.