KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Seattle saved their starters for this?
Manager Sigi Schmid held out his key players in the Sounders' midweek US Open Cup quarterfinal vs. the LA Galaxy, resting them for Sunday's league match against Sporting Kansas City.
Schmid's backups fought gamely in California, but still fell 4-2 – and on Sunday, that sacrifice of Seattle's last realistic hopes of silverware this season proved fruitless.
Sporting cruised to a 3-0 victory – one that could have been 5-0 or 6-0 with better finishing – against a Sounders side that looked disjointed from the opening whistle and dispirited from the early second half onward.
“It doesn't matter who you save,” Schmid said in his postmatch news conference. “We weren't good. We just weren't good as a team.”
Schmid wasn't wrong. His club attempted one shot – not on frame, and not until the 88th minute – and held just 35.2 percent of the possession. Seattle also didn't force a corner all day and got off just three crosses in open play.
“They pressured us early on and throughout the game,” defender Brad Evans told reporters. “For all 90 minutes, they put us under pressure. They smelled every single back pass and really put us under pressure. We just couldn’t get control of the ball, from back to front. We may have completed six or seven passes total today.
“I’ve never played in a game like that – mental lapses when it starts to get hot, and they are pressing and pressing. Credit to them, they stuck to their game plan and it worked.”
Sporting's game plan, with matchday temperatures in the low 90s, was to push hard for an early goal and force the Sounders to chase the match in exhausting conditions. It worked, when Dom Dwyer buried a header in the 21st minute, the first goal of his brace on Sunday.
“I think all around, we got caught ball-watching,” Evans said of Dwyer's early goal. “He sneaks in behind me and then we are chasing at that point. Whoever scored first today was going to win.”
Sporting kept up the pressure, going up 2-0 on Jacob Peterson's goal late in the first half and continuing to generate chances after the break – though only one, Dwyer's 79th-minute strike, found the net. By that time, Seattle had visibly lost any semblance of defensive energy and cohesion.
“Kansas City kept pressing,” Schmid said. “I think towards the end, we were a beat team, but they wanted to really pour it on and – you know, fair enough.”
The loss kept Seattle on 20 points, just one point ahead of last-place Houston and 10 below the red line in the Western Conference.
Things don't get any easier for the Sounders, either, with three of their next four matches against playoff contenders from the West.
“When a team doesn’t play well, then there are a lot of things that as a coach, the guy that has to take the responsibility, has to ask oneself,” Schmid said. “Were we technically set up the right way? Did we get the stuff out of them or put in the performance that we were expecting? There are all kind of things. At the end of the day, we were not good today.”