PORTLAND, Ore. — In a win-or-go-home game, the Seattle Sounders were once again forced to field a different starting lineup, the 36th in 37 MLS matches.
The results weren’t pretty.
The Sounders allowed the first three goals of the match, putting them at a four-goal aggregate disadvantage before pulling back a pair and settling for a season-ending 3-2 loss to the Portland Timbers in the second leg of their Western Conference semifinal on Thursday.
The most obvious change to the lineup was Shalrie Joseph starting at forward for the first time all year. Joseph had not started a match at any position since Aug. 25. He played 49 minutes before being subbed out for Obafemi Martins.
“Oba couldn’t go 90 minutes, so we knew we couldn’t start Oba,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said in the postgame press conference. “Then it’s options. [Lamar] Neagle wasn’t an option today and what are the options you have?
“We wanted to get Shalrie in there and play a little more advanced and at least physically be able to battle with their center backs. But he ended up dropping in too far and taking spaces [Clint] Dempsey normally gets the ball in and as a result we were disjointed in the first half.”
Once Martins came into the game, the Sounders’ attack looked considerably improved. But by that point, it was already 3-0.
Schmid seemed to indicate that using Joseph was a bit of a band-aid that he was hoping would hold until halftime.
“We were hoping to get into the half at 0-0,” he said. “The goal right before halftime and the goal right after halftime, that’s what killed us. For the first 45 minutes, hats off to them, they were much better than us.”
The other somewhat surprising decision was leaving Mauro Rosales on the bench. The former team captain entered in the 58th minute, after which the Sounders scored both their goals.
“If we would have started Rosales, we would have had to switch into a different 4-4-2,” Schmid said. “We thought we had been playing OK in the diamond our last three games. Even though we lost the first game, we thought we had played fairly well and created enough to stay consistent with that. We haven’t been able to throw a consistent group on the field. so we tried to stay with a consistent group as much as possible.”