CCL: Sounders left to rue their defensive breakdowns

So ... that happened.

Picking up the pieces after the worst competitive loss in Sounders history, head coach Sigi Schmid was left to grasp at straws to explain his team’s performance on Wednesday night.

Even with a 2-1 lead coming into the match, the Seattle Sounders conceded four times in the second half en route to a 6-1 loss to Mexican Primera División leaders Santos Laguna, completing a stunning exit from the CONCACAF Champions League, a 7-3 aggregate loss in the quarterfinals.

Schmid vowed to find out how his team sputtered in arguably the most important game in franchise history.

“We have to look at why we started the game slowly, why we started the second half slowly,” Schmid said. “I have to look at that and see what I can change to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Schmid thought the match turned on a handful of moments: Álvaro Fernández’s saved header in the early going. Mauro Rosales’ missed chance that led to counterattack and a Santos Laguna goal. David Estrada’s good chance that went begging. 

However, Schmid was clear that the substandard defensive effort was to blame for the demoralizing rout. While he chose not to name names, many of the Santos goal-scoring chances came down Seattle’s defensive left side, manned by Leo González and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado.

“Defensively I thought we had a poor game today,” Schmid said. “I think they won the duels. ... When they win all the 50-50 balls, it’s tough for your team to gain momentum.”

“Like I say, it’s easy to point fingers and say this guy or that guy didn’t have a good game. Us as a coaching staff, we need to look at it and we need to see what we need to do to avoid these kind of things in the future.”

Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, brought in to replace the retiring Kasey Keller, found himself on the business end of the defensive breakdowns. Neither he nor Rosales believed Seattle deserved the lopsided final score, indicating that the Sounders left themselves open to counterattacks by risking players forward in attack.

After tipping his hat to Santos, Gspurning believes the only sensible thing to do is to turn the attention to Saturday’s season opener against Toronto FC back at CenturyLink Field.

“I don’t care about the result or anything after it’s over,” Gspurning said. “What I care about and what the team cares about is Saturday and our opening game of the season. ... We have to keep our head up and work on Saturday.”