Posted October 31, 2013

Three thoughts on Seattle Sounders’ opening-round win over the Colorado Rapids

MLS, MLS Playoffs
Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders

Clint Dempsey and the Sounders fought through some tough moments to progress to the Western Conference Semifinals. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

Three thoughts on the Seattle Sounders’ 2-0 win over the visiting Colorado Rapids in Wednesday night’s Western Conference knockout match.

1) Seattle found its playoff grit — The Sounders (16-12-7) were horrible down the stretch and stumbled into the playoffs on a 0-4-3 slide that included three multi-goal defeats. That miserable stretch, plus the club’s checkered playoff past, didn’t leave room for much optimism.

But the Sounders fought through the poor form, the injuries, the rain and the referee to win the sort of rugged playoff game that’s bedeviled them before. Seattle started strong, maintained its composure when early chances went awry, held off the hard-charging Rapids (14-12-9) and then punctuated the win with a late goal. It was genuine playoff soccer.

The Sounders’ U.S. national team contingent played a critical role. Running at the top of coach Sigi Schmid’s new diamond midfield, Clint Dempsey demonstrated his quality with several incisive runs and penetrating passes. His switch to Eddie Johnson in the 28th moment ripped open the Rapids’ defense and helped set the table for a dangerous cross from Leo Gonzalez that was cleared out to Brad Evans. The U.S. national team’s right back, playing in midfield for Seattle, demonstrated his attacking prowess with a perfect half-volley that beat Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin for the opening goal.

Johnson scored the backbreaker in stoppage time, taking a feed from Dempsey, rounding befuddled defender Germán Mera and finishing at the near post.

The stars came through when it mattered.

2) Shallow Rapids – The Rapids wore their blue alternate uniforms for some reason, which was fitting for a match in which they didn’t look like themselves. Missing a couple of key attacking players and with a reshuffled back line, Colorado simply couldn’t get a handle on the game until more than an hour had passed. This certainly wasn’t the same squad that crushed the Sounders 5-1 on Oct. 5. At this stage of coach Oscar Pareja’s rebuild, the Rapids simply aren’t deep enough to beat a team like Seattle without a full complement.

Rookie of the Year favorite Dillon Powers (five goals, six assists) was absent with concussion symptoms, and August signing Vicente Sanchez, who contributed a goal and four assists in just seven starts, missed the first 60 minutes with an injured shoulder. Pareja also switched things up in the back, benching central defender Marvell Wynne, sliding Shane O’Neill out right and inserting Mera into the middle alongside Drew Moore.

Colorado was fortunate to trail only 1-0 at half. The visitors were overwhelmed by the Sounders, and Dempsey had far too much room to operate in the space between the Rapids’ lines. It easily could have been 2-0 at the hour mark, but a clear handball on Mera went uncalled in the penalty area. Desperation, injured Seattle defender DeAndre Yedlin’s halftime exit and a bizarre (but deserved) late red card to goalkeeper Michael Gspurning gave Colorado a boost over the final minutes. But the Rapids didn’t have the time or the quality to find the equalizer before Johnson struck.

Colorado has a bright future. But there’s a bit more work to do. First order of business — make sure Pareja isn’t tempted by a job offer from his old club, FC Dallas, which parted ways with coach Schellas Hyndman at the end of the regular season.

3) Buckle your seat belts – It had to happen eventually — an MLS playoff series between arch rivals Seattle and Portland. They met several times in the postseason as minor league clubs, most recently in 2005, but this time the world will take notice. It will be an electric two games.

The Sounders will be missing the suspended Gspurning for Saturday’s opener at CenturyLink Field and will have to hope that Yedlin’s ankle and striker Obafemi Martins’ groin heal quickly. But what Seattle lacks in momentum they possess in experience. The Sounders have been through the playoff gauntlet, while the top-seeded Timbers (14-5-15) will be making their debut.

“We expect a good game [Saturday]. Obviously they’re going to come out red hot,” Evans told NBC. “But we’re at home and we’ve got to make a statement. We’re ready for this one.”

12 comments
RickPotts
RickPotts

Wonder what Johnson had written under his shirt that his teammates stopped him from showing after he scored?  That boy has some serious issues......consistency being one of them.

GOREVS
GOREVS

Great, exciting game. But how on earth can Straus say that Gspurning's red card was deserved? The handball didn't deny a goal scoring opportunity. He obviously THOUGHT he was in the box. That was a terrible call. Thank goodness it didn't affect the outcome.

RickPotts
RickPotts

Just saw the hi-lights.  Looked like it said "RIP...something"  couldn't tell.

RickPotts
RickPotts

@GOREVS Not sure what you were watching but I clearly saw Colorado forwards bearing down on Gspurning who intentionally handled the ball outside the box.  Red card.  Easy call.  Bonehead play by Seattle goalie.  Just because a player THIOUGHT he could get to the ball first when he breaks a guys leg doesn't exempt  him from the red card either.

Agent0fN0thing
Agent0fN0thing

@RickPotts It was "RIP Nicole," in reference to the recently deceased wife of their equipment manager.

KenKing
KenKing

@RickPotts @GOREVS While a blockheaded move, I am not 100% convinced that the ball is actually out of the box. First of all, the announcer is out of his mind.That was not 2 yards out of the box. Freeze the frame at 53 seconds of the video in the Seatle Post Intelligencer website.. He has not yet handled the ball. Then look at his left foot on the ground. At best, that foot is two shoe lengths from the line - 24 inches. Remember that a ball is 8.65 inches in diameter. But look how far back he is leaning, at the 54 second mark. Are his shoulders 16 inches behind his left foot? If they are - and they might well be - that is 16 + 8.65 = 24.65 and the ball is still considered in the box by .65 inches. My point, I suppose, is that everyone is screaming the he handled the ball outside, largely because his feet were outside the line. That is not how soccer works. The entirety of the ball, from a point perpendicular to the outside most part of the ball, dictates if the ball is over the line, whether it be goal line, touch line, sideline or 18 yard. How many times have we seen goalies slide out of bounds or out of the 18, while stretching to keep the ball inside?


This play looked awful since both of his feet were outside. It looked - and was - stupid because he did not have to be outside. However, neither the ref nor assistant ref were in a position to clearly see if the ball was, indeed, incontrovertibly out of the 18.

GOREVS
GOREVS

@RickPotts I just watched it three more times... I guess we just disagree. I see Buddle 15 yards away and putting no pressure on Gspurning. If Gspurning realized where his feet were he could have easily backpedaled and caught the ball with no problem.

Brooks
Brooks

@RickPotts @Agent0fN0thing I don't think they wanted him showing it because he might receive a second yellow card for that type of display.

GOREVS
GOREVS

@RickPotts Totally agree, and that's one of the first things I thought. Gspurning has not been impressive lately.

RickPotts
RickPotts

@GOREVS @RickPotts Agree with that.  Buddle looked very ineffective all night.  I also think that Seattle does not lose very much by having Hanaman in the net.  

GOREVS
GOREVS

@RickPotts Also, Buddle should have gotten at least a yellow for his absurd flop after the play.