A pair of goals by the New York Red Bulls’s Mike Grella, 40 minutes apart, was enough to defeat the Sounders 2-0 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ., Sunday, spoiling the milestone moment of Sigi Schmid coaching in his 500th game.
Grella first struck in the 18th minute. A shot from Sacha Kljestan from the left alley swung across the net and bounced off the right post, forcing Frei to dive to his left to attempt a save. The rebound fell to Grella, who converted on his first touch into the open net.
Grella added his second in the 59th minute. A through ball from Lloyd Sam was deflected by Brad Evans and left in space, allowing Grella to run on the ball atop the 18. Frei rushed out to meet Grella, who calmly chipped the Seattle keeper to put the game out of reach.
“I think we were tired,” Schmid said. “I take nothing away from their combination, their running, and it was a good little overlapping run that put it in. But if Brad Evans gets his foot fully on the ball, then it’s not a problem; then Frei just clears it and Frei almost got there anyway.
“Grella finished it well. It was a good bit of skill. But I think on our part it was a little bit of fatigue, and with the Red Bull, it was a combination there, and it was a quality finish.”
Aaron Kovar took Seattle’s best chances, narrowly missing net on several occasions. Joevin Jones made a start as a left winger, suggesting that a position change away from left back may be on the table for the Trinidadian national. Clint Dempsey remains on duty with the U.S. Men’s National Team.
“It’s really frustrating (to not get a point), but they played amazing,” said Kovar said. “Their midfield was nothing that I had seen all season. I didn’t think we would come to Red Bull and they would play that well.
“But we had a lot of opportunities and I take a lot of responsibility there. I had four or five breakaway opportunities and I just couldn’t bag them.”
Seattle (5-8-1) outshot New York (7-7-1) 16-11, but both managed only three shots on net. The Red Bulls are one point back from the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Union with 22 points, while Seattle is second to last in the Western Conference with 16 points from 14 matches played.
Seattle has played the fewest matches in the Western Conference, but also has 13 goals, last in the league, apart from the lowly Chicago Fire at the bottom of the east. The Sounders have plenty of time to make up ground over the final 20 matches, but only if they can begin to convert chances into goals.
Seattle faces New York City FC at home Saturday (2 p.m., ESPN). The match is the first in Seattle between the teams since NYC joined the league in 2015. Seattle won the inaugural match between the clubs at Yankee Stadium last year, 3-1.