The Seattle Sounders have been playing short-handed for nearly two months, going back to when Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin were called to USMNT camp for the World Cup.
But “short-handed” turned into “missing half the starting lineup” on Saturday, and that proved to be too big a hill to climb in what turned into a 1-0 loss at the Vancouver Whitecaps.
In addition to Dempsey and Yedlin, Seattle was also without its rock solid midfield duo of Osvaldo Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda, each suspended for the contest due to yellow card accumulation. Throw in the scratch of injured forward Obafemi Martins, and the Sounders were forced to mix-and-match and hope for the reserves to come through in a rivalry game.
They couldn’t – not quite, anyway. But to head coach Sigi Schmid, that wasn’t an excuse.
“It doesn’t matter who’s missing,” Schmid said. “It’s talking about the players who played. We had enough quality on the field to get a result and to play.”
They showed some of in the second half, spending a majority of the time with possession in the Vancouver half of the field and trying to find an equalizer – Sebastian Fernandez had given the hosts a 1-0 lead on a 12th-minute rocket – that just wouldn’t come.
Lamar Neagle (who left the game in the second half with an apparent shoulder injury) had a decent look in the 52nd minute, but his attempt went wide of Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted. Midfielder Marco Pappa had the other best looking opportunity in the second minute of stoppage time when he blasted an attempt that went just over the goal.
Throughout, Seattle seemed to be missing that little touch of quality in the final third that guys like Dempsey and Martins have built their careers providing.
Brad Evans, who covered for Pineda as the midfield orchestrator, echoed Schmid’s sentiment, saying that Seattle wouldn’t use its depleted depth to rationalize the lackluster performance.
“Obviously, the guys that were missing are game-changers, that’s why they’re [Designated Players] and that’s why they’ve played in World Cups,” Evans said. “But that’s no excuse not to play your game and not to play the game the way it should be played.”
The match kicks off a week of Cascadia Cup action for Seattle (11-4-2), as the Sounders host the Portland Timbers in a US Open Cup match Wednesday before the teams play their MLS match on Sunday. The Whitecaps (6-3-7) stay at home next weekend to host Chivas USA.