SANDY, Utah — It’s difficult to score when you don’t have the ball. Certainly, the Seattle Sounders saw very little of it at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night as Real Salt Lake walked away with a 3-0 victory in the first leg of their Western Conference Semifinal series.
After the match, Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid decried the lack of possession in his postmortem assessment.
“For us on offense, we couldn't keep the ball,” Schmid said. “We couldn't hold onto the ball.”
No one was immune from the sickness as RSL’s pressure forced a huge number of turnovers. Under pressure from the get-go, Seattle displayed little of the attacking verve that led to a league-high 56 goals in the regular season.
Midfield anchor Osvaldo Alonso — whom Schmid said was lucky to escape a red card for his incident with RSL forward Álvaro Saborío — was named as one of the many players who performed “below expectations.” The Sounders coach said Saturday's match was “one of the worst games I've seen Alonso play in his three years with us.”
Not many of the other Sounders fared better.
Surely the absence of Mauro Rosales through injury was a factor, but one would have expected a better performance from a team that had won seven of its past nine league matches coming into the postseason. Lamar Neagle, in for Rosales on the wing, didn’t see much of the ball. Starting his first MLS game, Sammy Ochoa didn’t fare much better. Asked if the decision to start Ochoa was the correct one, Schmid put it bluntly.
“Everybody was the wrong choice,” he said. “With the exception of Keller, nobody played real well.”
Seattle failed to generate a shot on goal and lost the possession battle 55.1 percent to 44.9 percent. Often, games have periods where one team dominates the other, and on Saturday, it was the same — except that the period seemed to last 90 minutes.
Against RSL, the Sounders gave the ball away too often and too cheaply to be a threat to score. Álvaro Fernández had statistically the strongest effort with three shots, but a couple of those were headers that could have been on goal.
For a disappointed Seattle locker room, there’s nothing to do but regroup.
“We have a lot to be upset about tonight,” said forward Mike Fucito, "but come tomorrow, we’ve got to put it behind us and do whatever it takes to turn the table the other way."
Andrew Winner covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com.