Typically met with the enthusiasm one holds for an extended kiss on the cheek from a great aunt, ties are rarely reason to stage a celebration.
The Sounders (7-7-4, 25 points) may make an exception Saturday after playing the Colorado Rapids (8-7-7, 31 points) to a 1-1 draw. Handicapped by injuries to more than one-third of its roster, Seattle sported a makeshift lineup that controlled the visiting Rapids for the first 45 minutes on a sun-soaked afternoon at CenturyLink Field.
“If you look at the first half, we were all over them,” said fourth-string goalkeeper Andrew Weber. “I didn’t touch the ball.”
Weber started because of injuries to starter Michael Gspurning and reserves Marcus Hahnemann and Josh Ford, though it didn’t seem to matter early.
The Sounders’ attack pushed consistently, connected well (they completed 74 percent of their passes) but fell short of executing the offense that helped them enter the match unbeaten at home dating back to a season-opening loss to Montreal. They packed the middle of the field effectively and appeared ready to beat Colorado for an MLS-record eighth consecutive time.
But, the 39,196 attending quieted in the 60th minute when Colorado’s Drew Moor headed in Nick LaBrocca’s corner. So swift was Moor that his momentum nearly caused him to crash into the back of the net.
“It caught the wind and I mistimed it,” Weber said of yielding the corner kick over his head. “It went off my fingertips. I could have been better on the play, and we could have been better on marking.”
DeAndre Yedlin helped the Sounders regain the momentum and a bit of the mojo Schmid felt the team lost during Seattle’s run of three losses in the past four matches.
“He looked more like the DeAndre that was playing at the beginning of the year, using his quickness and speed, getting in there and making things happen,” Schmid said.
In the 65th minute, Lamar Neagle cracked a shot off the right post. The ball ricocheted to Yedlin. The O’Dea HS graduate redirected the ball back to the goal, but Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin slapped it back out of the box.
Enter Yedlin. Again.
Named Monday to the MLS All-Star team, the 20-year-old headed in the ricochet, connecting for his first career MLS goal and becoming the youngest player in Sounders history to score in league play.
“I thought the goal was good,” Yedlin said. “It was a little bit lucky… I wish I could have done more to help the team win.”
The Sounders, led by a forward combination of Obafemi Martins and Neagle that entered the match unbeaten when starting together, pressured Irwin during the final 25 minutes, then continued to push during four minutes of stoppage time. The Sounders lobbed ball after ball into the Rapids box, but never received an open look at the net.
“We’re not a team that generally humps it and dumps it in,” Schmid lamented. “Maybe we could have played that a little bit better if we trained it, but we don’t train that a lot because we don’t expect to play that way very often.”
Saturday began a critical stretch that could ultimately decide Seattle’s playoff fate. Though the Sounders entered seventh in the Western Conference standings, their prospects for a second-half push seemed more manageable given their immediate schedule includes three consecutive home matches. Seattle has played the fewest matches of any Western Conference team and is five points away from the fifth and final playoff spot.
Meanwhile, the Rapids, so flustered in the first half by defending from Yedlin, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Zach Scott and Leo Gonzalez, failed to record a shot on goal. Schmid said Colorado was trying to purposely slow down the pace.
“The referees didn’t recognize that early enough,” he said. “They were very content coming in here to steal a win or walk out of here with a tie.”
The Sounders started urgently, missing an early lead when Neagle nearly sneaked a header behind Irwin. From there, first-half scoring chances were nonexistent until the 39th minute.
That was when midfielder Osvaldo Alonso sparked a counter-run by crossing over a Rapids defender and quickly advancing the ball to Mauro Rosales. Rosales dribbled and dumped a pass to Obafemi Martins, but the Nigerian striker missed wide right when Irwin appeared out of position, leaving the near post open.
The misfire constituted an opportunity squandered. So did the final score in the first match of the longest home stand of the season.
“You want three (wins), but we’ve got two more home games,” Weber said. “If we can get seven out of nine (points,) we’ll take it.”
Notes: The Sounders entered the match averaging 1.77 goals all-time in July matches . . . the previous seven Seattle victories against Colorado came by a single goal . . . The Sounders were without forward Eddie Johnson, called back to the U.S. Men’s National Team for Sunday’s CONCACAF Gold Cup match against El Salvador . . . Seattle’s injury report entering Saturday was long and varied. Among those vying for a spot in the team infirmary: Michael Gspurning (forearm sprain), Brad Evans (rib contusion), Djimi Traore (hamstring), Steve Zakuani (sports hernia), Shalrie Joseph (calf), Andy Rose (hamstring), Marcus Hahnemann (hamstring), Alex Caskey (ankle), Josh Ford (patella fracture), Phillip Lund (plantar fasciitis). Schmid said post-game he expects Evans and Traore to return July 28 when the Sounders face Chivas USA . . . The 39,196 fans marked the 77th consecutive sellout at CenturyLink Field.