SEATTLE — It was only two games ago that the Seattle Sounders boasted one of the top defenses in MLS.
But after a second-straight blowout loss – this one 4-1 to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday at CenturyLink Field – something is clearly wrong. The Sounders have allowed nine goals in their past two games (the first, a 5-1 loss to Colorado), as many as they had surrendered in the 12 matches they'd played before that.
"At the end of the day, it wasn’t a good performance today, it wasn’t a good performance at Colorado, and it’s unacceptable," head coach Sigi Schmid told reporters. "We live and die together, we live and die as a team, as a staff, everybody. It’s unacceptable from us as a coaching staff, it’s unacceptable for us as a team, and it’s just unacceptable the last two performances. Everything you say is warranted because obviously we haven’t done anything in the last two games to show a difference.
“It’s disappointing because we’re just not making plays. We’re not making saves, we’re not making defensive stops, we’re not winning tackles, people are slipping in behind us, we’re not running with people, so those are things that are just unacceptable and we have to look at it and we have to solve it.”
The breakdowns came early and often. Kekuta Manneh, an 18-year-old rookie, scored the first of his three goals just 12 minutes into the match. He scored his second just before halftime and finished off his hat trick with a 54th-minute goal that gave the Whitecaps what turned out to be an insurmountable 3-0 lead.
On all three goals, Manneh was able to slip behind the defense and create one-on-one opportunities with Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning.
“I feel like the rest of the team — horrible," said Gspurning, who took the blame on the Whitecaps’ last goal that he allowed to squirt through his legs. "It just wasn’t fun the last two games, there were 10 or 12 one-on-one situations where the striker can decide where he wants the ball. If you're lucky, you make some saves. If you're not, this happens. I can't say more because my mind is empty.”
Coming off two of the worst losses in franchise history, Schmid said no player’s starting position is safe.
Whatever changes need to be made, though, they need to happen quickly. The Sounders still control their ability to win the Supporters’ Shield, but the Cascadia Cup is in jeopardy. The Whitecaps will win the Cup with either a win or a draw by the Timbers on Sunday.
“I don't know, maybe it's the pressure of the end of the season, the playoffs, the first time the club is in position to win the shield,” Seattle defender Djimi Traore said. “It's not easy to deal with it. But now we need to show some character and as experienced players we need to step up and drive the team.”