After latest loss, Seattle Sounders say it's time to "figure out a way to win" without big stars

For the Seattle Sounders, Saturday night’s 1-0 loss to the Chicago Fire was just an extension of the same storyline that has dogged the team in recent weeks.

The Sounders defended well enough to gain a road result against Chicago, but they conceded late as Chicago's Jason Johnson netted a stoppage time game-winner in the 93rd minute. And once again, Seattle’s attack found itself unable to crack the scoresheet without star forwards Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, sending the Sounders to their fourth loss in their last five MLS matches against a Chicago side that currently occupies the bottom slot in the Eastern Conference.

Seattle have now scored just two goals in their last five games and have been shut out in three of them.

Saturday’s result also offset a solid effort from second-string goalkeeper Troy Perkins, filling in for starter Stefan Frei, who sat out the match with a sprained shoulder suffered in Seattle’s 1-0 victory over D.C. United last weekend.

“We did a good a job of defending and holding on there,” Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid told reporters after the game. “I thought Perkins played well and came up with a big save toward the end. …We just needed to be smart enough to get through and hold onto a 0-0 at the end of the day.”

The result was all the more frustrating for Schmid and the Sounders considering the timing and circumstances of Johnson’s game-winner, which came on a counterattack on the heels of a Seattle free kick taken well within Chicago’s half of the field.

“One mental mistake, really,” Perkins said of Johnson’s goal. ”Credit to [Johnson], it was a good finish and he did well, but it starts way before that. We’ve got to hold ourselves accountable for it and move on.”

Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan also said that Johnson’s goal came on a mental lapse that could have been easily prevented.

“We just have to be more careful,” Roldan said. “When we’re putting the ball into the box and we are committing guys forward, we have to be more careful with that. We need to be aware of where people should be at the same moment.”

The question for Seattle now remains the same heading into next weekend’s home matchup with the Colorado Rapids: Who will pick up the offensive slack without Dempsey and Martins, each of whom are still weeks away from making a return?

Saturday did not seem to bring the Sounders any closer to finding an answer.

“When you’re missing guys and you’re winning, you don’t think about it,” Perkins said. “Certainly, now we’re thinking about that.

“But you know what? They’re not going to come anytime soon. We’ve got to turn around now and figure out a way to win.”

Ari Liljenwall covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com.