Sounders FC navigated the preseason unbeaten after coming back twice in a 2-2 tie against D.C. United on Saturday. The result, however, wasn’t good enough to claim the Carolina Challenge Cup.
Both Seattle and D.C. finished 1-0-2 in the tournament in Charleston, S.C., but D.C. held a better goal-differential, which served as the decisive tiebreaker to claim the trophy.
The Sounders went 6-0-3 in preseason leading into their March 8 opener against defending MLS champion Sporting Kansas City.
D.C. broke a 1-1 tie in the 53rd minute Saturday when midfielder Perry Kitchen was left unmarked on a corner kick and slammed a volley past goalkeeper Stefan Frei. It marked the third goal allowed by Seattle this preseason off a set piece (e.g. free kick, corner kick), a potentially disturbing trend.
The Sounders equalized in the 63rd minute, when a sharp passing sequence set up midfielder Marco Pappa in front of the goal, where he cleanly finished a right-footed shot.
Seattle continued to press for a winner and earned a man advantage in the 76th minute when DCU’s Cristian Fernandez was issued a red card for a rash tackle on DeAndre Yedlin.
Yedlin, who left the game with an ankle injury, noted on Twitter that it was “just a little bump in the road” and wouldn’t keep him out of the season opener.
The Sounders’ best chance for a late goal came in the 87th minute, but Lamar Neagle’s header at the back post went just wide and rippled the side netting, leading many to believe it had gone in.
D.C., featuring ex-Sounder Jeff Parke on defense, held on to win its fourth CCC trophy .
Scoring opened in the eighth minute when Seattle’s Chad Marshall was called for a handball in the penalty box — a decision that came moments after Marshall was denied his own penalty kick on the other end — and Fabian Espindola converted the PK.
The Sounders answered on a 24th-minute header by forward Kenny Cooper, a play aided when D.C. goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra misplayed a cross.
Cooper, like Pappa, recorded his first goal of the preseason. Dylan Remick earned his team-leading third assist on the play.
Seattle started what looked close to an opening-day lineup, which provided an indication that Frei will be the team’s starting goalkeeper in Week 1.
One key player missing, of course, was Clint Dempsey, who played 90 minutes in his final game on loan with Fulham of the English Premier League — a 3-1 loss Saturday to league-leading Chelsea.
Dempsey will play for the U.S. national team in Wednesday’s friendly against Ukraine in Cyprus before returning to the Sounders.