For the second match in a row, a defensive lapse led to the Seattle Sounders giving up a late game-winning goal to a last-place team. Colorado Rapids forward Kevin Doyle scored his second goal of the season in the 84th minute to dispatch the Sounders 1-0 Saturday night in front of 40,403 at the Clink.
“I’m disappointed with the result,” said head coach Sigi Schmid. “I thought we played better than last week in Chicago, but the result was the same: We make a mistake in the back and they bury it.”
Seattle (10-9-2) entered the match having lost four of their previous five league matches. Colorado (5-6-9) was on a two-game win streak. Earlier in the week, Schmid implied that a shift in tactics might be necessary to combat his ailing squad’s poor run of form.
The shift in lineup saw Schmid go to a 4-3-3, pushing midfielder Cristian Roldan forward into a winger position, a move in synch with Schmid’s increased emphasis lately on productivity in the final third. He was joined up top by Lamar Neagle and Thomás. The midfield trio consisted of Osvaldo Alonso, Andy Rose and Erik Friberg. Friberg was a surprise pick for the starting 11, since Schmid had listed his fitness level at “about 75 to 80” percent after his first training session Tuesday.
The change in formation was the latest in an ongoing attempt to deal with major mid-season absences due to injury and national team call-ups. Joint top scorers Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins were unavailable for the match — Dempsey was busy Saturday scoring a hat trick for USMNT against Cuba in the Gold Cup quarterfinals, and Martins was recovering from a groin injury. Also absent were fellow USMNT call-up Brad Evans and injured starting goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
The 4-3-3 nearly bore fruit in the first minute. Thomás ran on to a Neagle cross and fired a shot from 18 yards out toward the upper netting, but it was tipped over the bar by Colorado keeper Clint Irwin. Seattle’s other promising chance arose out of Roldan’s new attacking role when he fought past two defenders in the 47th minute inside the penalty area, but was unable to direct the ball past a charging Irwin.
The goal came in the 84th minute. Rapids defender Jared Watts lofted a long ball towards the Sounders’ 18, where Doyle and Seattle defender Chad Marshall collided attempting to win the header.
Doyle took the better of the collision, and arrived at the ball in time to slot it across the goal mouth into the right side of the net past a diving Troy Perkins. The Rapids held off a few desperate last-minute chances to come away with the victory.
Schmid said that his tea focused on attempting to increase offensive production to turn things around.
“We tried to do a lot of crossing and finishing to build up the confidence of the guys up front,” said Schmid. “We’ll continue to put out what we think is a formation that can help us attack. Now it’s a matter of finishing the chances.”
Schmid did admit, though, that luck may have to play a factor to break Seattle’s slump.
“Sometimes when you’re in something like this it just takes something to bounce your way,” he said Saturday. “It’s not like we’re getting outplayed; we’re in every game, so for us right now we need something maybe flukey to happen, but we need to take advantage of it when it does.”
Lucky or not, the pressure will be on the Sounders to get a result on the road July 25 at Montreal to help them stay apace in the tight race in the Western Conference.