SEATTLE – With the return of several key contributors to their starting lineup, the Seattle Sounders hoped Saturday night’s home matchup with the Vancouver Whitecaps would be a slump-busting catalyst to get their season back on a positive track.
Instead, they ended up with yet another setback.
The Sounders were blown out 3-0 by their Cascadia Cup rivals from the north on Saturday, falling for the seventh time in their last eight MLS matches. This was despite regaining the services of both forward Clint Dempsey and center back Brad Evans, both of whom missed all of July with the US national team at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Their return was considered vital for allowing the Sounders to find their customary playing style again.
“It’s never going to be that easy,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said after the game. “I tried to caution people. Everybody thought, ‘Ok, everybody’s back’ and it’s a snap of the fingers and it’ll all happen again. That’s not the way it works."
After losing their last three matches by an identical 1-0 scoreline Seattle failed to get even that close on Saturday, falling behind early on a 6th-minute volley from Vancouver defender Pa-Modou Kah and never recovering.
Kah, who had just one goal in his MLS career coming into the game, burned the Sounders with a nifty backheel for a second goal just after second half kickoff. Pedro Morales then notched the dagger with a pinpoint bending free kick in the 75th minute to seal Seattle’s fate.
“Three set piece goals,” Evans said. “The first one takes a deflection off my hip and bounces straight to Kah, he bangs it in. Second one, short corner, he shoots and Kah gets a cheeky little backheel. Third one, our wall separates, [Morales] bangs it in. Just not good on both ends tonight.”
Starting goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who made his return to Seattle’s starting lineup after missing three games with a sprained shoulder, also pointed to his side’s set piece defending as Saturday night’s weakness.
“Disappointed to give away three goals on set pieces,” Frei said. “In general we just gave away too many silly free kicks around the box. …We have to be in the right spot at the right time. You can’t just always say it’s bad luck. We have to win those individual battles.”
The Sounders are afforded little time to dwell on the loss, as they have a quick turnaround heading to Vancouver to take on these same Whitecaps in a CONCACAF Champions League matchup on Wednesday.
It’s a matchup that might carry even more intensity, Schmid says, given the way Vancouver players celebrated on the field after Saturday’s victory.
“They went out and celebrated on our field a little bit and that pisses us off,” Schmid said. “We’ve got to make sure that we right that and we pay them back for that. I don’t think teams should come in here and be taking snapshots and pictures on our field. It pisses me off and I think it pisses off our players. When you play back-to-back and close together, that maybe heats up things.”