It is official. The Sounders are in early trouble. With a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday night, Seattle is off to its worst start in franchise history. The Sounders have dropped three of their first four Major League Soccer matches for the first time and are last in the Western Conference at 0-3-1.
Seattle was back to full strength after Eddie Johnson (USA), Mario Martinez (Honduras) and Obafemi Martins (Nigeria) returned to the team after competing for their home countries in World Cup qualifiers earlier this week. Brad Evans and Shalrie Joseph were also active after early-season injuries. But they weren’t enough for the Sounders, who played sluggishly and were overpowered for the majority of the match.
The lack of energy was highlighted in the first half as Michael Gspurning made seven saves (a season high), yet Real Salt Lake still sneaked two shots past the goalie Seattle squandered the few chances it had.
In the eighth minute, Real Salt Lake’s Robbie Findley hit home a rebound off Gspurning that the striker first drove at the goalie off a throw-in. It ended a 408-minute goalless streak RSL had against Seattle that went back to May.
Luis Gil stretched the lead to 2-0 in the 35th minute with a header to the far post on a close corner off the foot of Ned Grabavoy.
The Sounders’ best first-half scoring opportunity came in the second minute of stoppage time when Eddie Johnson corralled a pass from midfield and, after a couple of touches, shot near post, but RSL goalie Nick Rimando dove and sent the ball out of bounds.
Coach Sigi Schmid was not shy with the first-half critique of his squad.
“Horrible. Absolutely horrible. We should be down 5-0,” Schmidt told a halftime interviewer. Asked what he was adjustments he was going to make, he said, “(I am) going to yell at them.”
Apparently his voice was heard as the team emerged from the locker room just in time to start the second half. Play was held up for a few moments for Eddie Johnson to get out of the locker room.
Joao Plata nearly put RSL up 3-0 in the 54th minute when he hit a point-blank rocket off Gspurning’s face before the ball was cleared. Play halted for a couple minutes while Gspurning cleared the cobwebs. Plata entered the game in place of Findley, who scored the game’s first goal.
Evans closed the gap to 2-1 in the 57th minute with his first goal of the season. DeAndre Yedlin sent a close corner into the box where Mauro Rosales redirected the ball to Evans, who hit the ball off the near post.
Seattle couldn’t find the net on a loose ball in the penalty box in the 72nd minute. It was the closest the Sounders came to tying the the match.
The Sounders Tuesday host Santos Laguna in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals.