It was by no means a case of David vs. Goliath, but based on recent history, there seemed little doubt Seattle Sounders FC would take care of business at CenturyLink Field Wednesday night against the Columbus Crew. After all, in seven meetings, Seattle owned a 4-0-3 record and a 14-6 aggregate goal advantage over coach Sigi Schmid’s former club.
So when the Sounders dropped their second consecutive home match in a 2-0 pounding, Schmid and Co. were left to figure out what went wrong.“I’m not happy,” Schmid said in a blunt post game press conference. “We have to do a better job marking at the back post (which allowed the first score) and we have to do a better job right before halftime. The opportunity that (Alvaro) Fernandez had (would have made it) 1-1 and that changes everything.”
Schmid lamented the gaffes that proved costly for a Sounders club that is 0-2-1 in its last three games.The Sounders had 21 shots on goal to the Crew’s five, and the Crew had to make six saves and the Sounders none. None of that dominance mattered.
“It doesnt matter how much possession we have, or how much we dominate that part, or how much possession we have in their end of the field,” Schmid said. “Its the final quality of what you do.”
In the 15th minute, Columbus momentarily silenced the nearly 40,000 fans in attendance when Justin Meram headed fellow midfielder Dilly Duka’s cross into the back of the net.
Trailing 1-0 in first-half stoppage time, Fernandez squandered his team’s best scoring chance of the night when his header on a David Estrada cross sailed wide of the net.
“Fernandez’s chance at the end of the first half was as good a look as you’re going to get,” Schmid said. “That’s as close to an empty net as possible.”
After controlling the ball 60 percent of the first half, the Sounders played with increased urgency in the second frame but still couldn’t convert.
Seattle narrowly missed an equalizer from Fredy Montero when another Estrada cross set up a scoring chance. With possession in the center of the box, Montero’s left-footed strike to the right corner of the net glanced off Crew goalie Andy Gruenebaum.
Seattle’s difficulty scoring was more a product of the Crew’s defense than the quality of Seattle’s scoring chances, according to Schmid.
“Teams are playing us very defensively,” he said. “They’re packing it in the back and so they’re making it hard for us break them down . . . So now the quality of the serves have to be a little bit better and the quality of the runs have to get a little bit better.”
It appeared early the Sounders would have no trouble dissecting a defense they’ve dominated. In the game’s first 10 minutes, Seattle pressured a team that looked the part of a club sitting seventh in the Eastern Conference standings.
An early Columbus defensive lapse allowed a short pass from forward Eddie Johnson to a streaking Montero, but the try from inside the box sailed just wide of the forward’s leg, negating another shot chance.
The early frustration set the tone on a night where individual mistakes were costly.
With the Sounders pushing hard to score late in the second half, the Crew’s Emilio Renteria eliminated the possibility of a draw by slamming a goal over goalie Bryan Meredith into the back right corner of the net from well outside the box.
“That’s a tough goal,” Meredith said. “I’m definitely not expecting him to hit that first time. I don’t think any of us were, but he hit it well and if I could have tracked back a little quicker I think it would have been a bit of an easier save.”
With the Sounders set to hit the road for five of the next six games, including Saturday at Chivas USA, Schmid said it’s time for his club to channel its inner Buddha.
“We need to soul search,” he said. “I need to soul search.”