The Seattle Sounders have lost five of their first 14 games this season. They've won six. It's not an ideal ratio, to be sure, but it's hardly the stuff of panic. Yet, somehow, each loss seems to bring a sense of dread and panic. This one was no different.
You see, the Sounders don't just lose games, it seems. They lose them in particularly frustrating and dispiriting fashion. It wasn't the 2-0 scoreline that should be freaking anyone out. It's that they were out shot 17-2 and really seemed to have no cohesion moving the ball forward for about 80 minutes. By the time they started created some semblance of an attack, it was far too late and even the one or two decent chances they created were hardly the result of patient build-up.
The last two losses have been especially frustrating, as they were by a combined score of 6-0 and saw the Sounders generate a grand total of four shots.
There are some similarities between the two games in terms of personnel. The biggest has to be the absence of Osvaldo Alonso. The Sounders have now played 578 minutes without their defensive midfielder on the field and have allowed 13 goals. That translates to 2.02 goals per 90.
Oddly enough, the Sounders have actually scored at a better clip without Alonso (1.55 goals per 90 as opposed to 1.18 with him), but they seem to struggle especially against their best opponents.
Another common thread is Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins starting up top together. It would be unfair to blame the struggles on them alone, as it they don't seem to get any service, but this is obviously a pairing that is going to need some time to click.
Both recent losses also happened to be the last two times that Jhon-Kennedy Hurtado started. Putting this loss on his shoulders seems eminently unfair, but he didn't exactly impress, either.
One way or another, the Sounders are going to need to figure this out. At least there's still time?
RSL - Kyle Beckerman 41'
RSL - Robbie Findley (Alvaro Saborio) 46'
Seattle Sounders FC - Michael Gspurning, Zach Scott, Djimi Traore, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez, Mauro Rosales (Shalrie Joseph 76), Servando Carrasco, Brad Evans, Lamar Neagle (Mario Martinez 57), Eddie Johnson (David Estrada 73), Obafemi Martins.
TOTAL SHOTS: 2 (Martinez, Martins 1); SHOTS ON GOAL: 1 (Martinez 1); FOULS: 11 (Evans, Martins 3); OFFSIDE: 1 (Evans 1); CORNER KICKS: 3 (Rosales 3); SAVES: 4 (Gspurning 4).
Real Salt Lake - Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Carlos Salcedo, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Khari Stephenson (Sebastian Velasquez 77), Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales (Yordany Alvarez 89), Ned Grabavoy, Robbie Findley (Olmes Garcia 67), Alvaro Saborio.
TOTAL SHOTS: 17 (Beckerman, Saborio 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Beckerman 3); FOULS: 11 (Grabavoy 3); OFFSIDE: 4 (Four players, 4); CORNER KICKS: 8 (Morales 8); SAVES: 1 (Rimando 1).
RSL - Chris Wingert (caution) 24'
RSL - Kyle Beckerman (caution) 59'
SEA - Leo Gonzalez (caution) 61'
SEA - Djimi Traore (caution) 74'
Referee: Armando Villarreal
Referee's Assistants: Gregory Barkey, Claudio Badea
4th Official: Alejandro Mariscal
Time of Game: 1:49
Weather: Sunny and 75 degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial
Seattle Sounders Head Coach Sigi Schmid
On the match as a whole:
"I didn't think it was that bad for us in the first half. I know we didn't have any shots on goal, but I thought overall we forced them to turn the ball over. But at the end of the day, goals change games. So they get the goal right with about five minutes to go in the first half and Beckerman hits a great shot. It was a bad free kick for us to give up and then we give a goal away at the beginning of the second half. Goals change games. From that point on the second half I thought they pretty much dominated us. At that point I don't think we made smart decisions or played well and they were the better team for sure."
On the defense not giving up a single shot until Beckerman's goal:
"That was good. I thought they were playing a lot of long balls, we were reading the long balls, they were pretty direct, a lot more direct than they normally are and I thought we had picked that up. I thought that we had a couple of opportunities that we misplayed passes on early on in the game. Our forwards weren't as sharp as they needed to be, and a result we turned the ball over in the attacking end where it could have led to some good attacks if we had better passing."
On RSL's field players matching against Seattle's:
"I didn't think that was a problem for us in the first half. I didn't think Grabavoy or Stephenson were seeing a whole lot of the ball. We always play with our wingers wide, so that's nothing different, and we let our outside backs pick up their backs. I thought we did a pretty good job, because I think that when you look at the amount of possession and the passes that they had, it wasn't like they out-possessed us a ton, especially in the first half. They out-possessed us more in the second half, but not in the first."
On measuring against RSL and LA Galaxy and how to get results:
"Win games. It's as simple as that. We've come here twice, we've lost twice. They've got to come to our place. We'll see how it turns out at our place, but I think neither time that we played RSL we were as sharp as we needed to be, so part of that is a tribute to them and part of that is on us, so I got to worry about us and get us to together. We had a stinker in L.A. when we played L.A. as well, so we got to start those things to win."
Seattle Sounders FW Eddie Johnson
On the team's performance:
"I just think it wasn't our night. I had a few training sessions with the team before the game and we were sharp at yesterday's training. We just couldn't get things going. We couldn't connect passes today. Myself I wasn't good enough today, I mean you could talk about the altitude, speaking for myself being away with the national team. You know there is no excuse. At the end of the day the coach put together a strong team to get results and we didn't do it today."
Thoughts on RSL's defense:
"They were good tonight. They always play well at home. I feel like before Kyle [Beckeman's] goal it was a pretty even game. We know when we come here they're going to have a lot of possession of the ball, but we never really gave up anything. Great goal by Beckerman in the first half, we came out flat. Coach talked about it at halftime not giving up anything and they get a goal 40 seconds in and we just dropped our heads."
Seattle Sounders MF Brad Evans
On the team's performance:
"I think we played the best that we've played here in a long time. We connected our passes and did what we set out to do. Goals change games. For that, we settled down and went into halftime confident I thought. And then the worst time for a team to score is right after halftime so then you've dug yourself a two-goal deficit and you're chasing the game after that. After a little while you become tired and lose your complacency, couple fouls that get you out of your rhythm, we still had one or two chances to score. If we score one of those it changes the game a little bit. That's the way of the game I guess. Goals at certain times changes game. Right before the half and right after the half and that was it."
On his comfort level in the game and being outnumber in the midfield:
"No. Any other time I've played here I've felt outnumbered but not today. I felt like we did OK today until the middle part of the second half you know when you're chasing, they're going to open you up when you push so many guys forward. I don't know what it looked like from above but usually I'm gassed going into halftime and I think we did well going into halftime."
On the momentum swing of Findley's goal:
"It changed the game completely. It is the worst time for a team to get scored on is right after halftime. It is what it is. Two goals down and chasing against a team like that when you start pressing guys forward they cheat a bit and they're good enough to where they connect four or five passes and the game opens up from there."
Real Salt Lake Head Coach Jason Kreis
If he thought RSL would be at the top of the table halfway through season:
"No, I think realistically, I looked at us as being a team that was going to be learning the whole season, a team that was hopefully going to be improving the whole season. And I've been fairly unconcerned with our placement in the standings. Just because we're first now I'm not going to start concerning myself and being happy about that. I'm still looking at the individual performances, when I say individual performances I mean week in and week out, individual games and looking for places we can improve."
Thoughts on Captain Kyle Beckerman's performance:
"It was a captain's effort tonight. He led by example, the number of times he broke up plays and intercepted passes and got into critical tackles was off the charts. Really, really strong performance by him, with the ball, probably not his best night, strung things together pretty well, and had an outstanding finish on the goal. That is not an easy strike to take and he took it extremely calmly and well."
Thoughts on the improvement of the team, particularly by DF Carlos Salcedo and the defense:
"Yeah, I think that we're improving in that department. A month ago I would have told you we were giving them away, in fact I think I did tell you we were giving away too many clear cut chances. Even though we weren't getting scored a bunch against, I felt we were living on the edge and we were living on a lot of [RSLGK Nick] Rimando fantastic saves. To go in a game like tonight and know you're playing against players like Obafemi Martins, Eddie Johnson, Lamar Neagle, Mauro Rosales, and to limit them with the number of chances that we did showed a very strong defensive effort. Everybody involved, not just the back four and Rimando, but the midfielders that commit, what they showed, Grabavoy, Stephenson, Morales, the work he put in and Beckerman I already alluded to. It was simply fantastic."
Thoughts on FW Alvaro Saborio:
"Pleased, pleased to have him back. I thought he was pretty sharp on the ball. He made good decisions with his passes, nearly had an assist or two in the game. Got around pretty darn well. Worked hard for the team. I'm really, really pleased. Obviously, he's probably not so pleased because he feels that he has to score all the time, I don't. I think he was a major contributor to the success the team had and a major contributor to three points tonight."
Thoughts on MF Khari Stephenson and how he's contributing right now:
"He was a player that I really felt like, in the preseason, I was extremely happy to have. After we had him in the camp for about a month I felt like he really started to pick up on it, he's a really smart, smart soccer player. He's played in a lot of different places in a lot of different environments and he gets it. He's just a good soccer player. After we went through preseason I felt really good about him, the addition of him. Then we went into the beginning of the season and he played very well the first two or three games, but then he got injured. I feel like he's been a little hesitant to come back from the injury for a long time. Probably took him a little longer than any of us expected and I think he was trying to play through some pain there. That caused him to be a little hesitant to go into tackles and get his body around. But you saw tonight he didn't look hesitant at all. Another guy that made a lot of critical tackles and statement tackles to show Seattle that this was going to be a difficult night and a difficult field to play on."
On whether his expectations have been met for this home stand:
"That's difficult to say because I don't go into the expectations. Expectations are something I allow everybody else to use and talk about. I just, again, look at individual performances and the matches and obviously I feel pretty good that we picked up the points. But I didn't come into this stretch saying we need x or y number of points. Again, very focused on the performance and very focused on looking for areas to improve and I'll continue to do that."
On keeping the young players focused while being at the top of the table:
"Young players need to be concerned with one thing, getting better every day, giving their best in training sessions. They don't need to concern themselves with how many points this team has at all. If they're doing that, they're certainly not going to be in the right mindset to further their game."
Real Salt Lake FW Robbie Findley
On his goal:
"Right when you turn around, [Saborio] takes the shot. It came back to me, bobbled between my legs and sat right there. I was able to just turn around and get it the first time."
On the difficulty of Kyle Beckerman's goal:
"It was very difficult, with how the ball was bouncing. You have to jump up and volley at the same time. He did very well to keep it up under the crossbar."
On the ability of the team to create offensive possessions:
"That's been how it is from the beginning. We do our defense first, and from that we create our offense, as you saw here tonight. We just have to continue to be sharper and see if we can pull a full 90 minutes together next game."
Real Salt Lake DF Chris Wingert
On Real Salt Lake's defensive performance:
"I think we did a pretty good job of winning the ball back in their half. There were some spurts where they were putting us under pressure a bit in the first half, but the effort was certainly there from our guys. We didn't play our best soccer in the beginning, but very timely goals at the end of the [first] half and right at the beginning of the [second] half to put us in a good position."
On DF Carlos Salcedo's performance:
"The kid is 19 years old - it's incredible. He's playing extremely mature and experienced beyond his years. We have more than enough confidence in our guys - they can step up and we can still win games."
Real Salt Lake Captain Kyle Beckerman
On his first-half goal off Morales' free kick:
"It looked like they had three guys, and we had four. At first, I was thinking ‘I'm wide open, so cross it over if [Morales] can, but if course if he wants to shoot, then go for it.' He went for the shot, the ball popped out, and I just tried to get something solid on it - get it on goal - and luckily it went in."
On the club reaching the top of the table despite so many offseason changes:
"I think the foundation has been there. We had to put in a lot of hard work, and the coaches have to do a heck of a job laying a foundation here. I think the biggest thing about that is having a winning mentality since 2007, when we turned it around. We just continue to try to build off that foundation. Whether we bring in new players, young players, old players - I think when the guys see what we've done in the past couple of years, they want to buy into this. When we bring in new guys, it's easy to integrate them to what we're about here."
On the club's ability to sustain its scoring onslaught:
"I think the games that we weren't scoring were just a bit unlucky - keepers playing unbelievable, we're hitting the post and it's just not going in. Guys work hard in practice to try and fix it. We got guys that are trying to push each other; we got forwards that all want to play, but we've got only two spots for five or six guys. They're pushing each other to see who scores, who's going to play - it's great for us."
Real Salt Lake MF Ned Grabavoy
On the influx of youth on the team:
"You never know how the season is going to go. You never know how young players are going to come along. I think they probably came along a lot faster than the veterans and coaches. Even in preseason, I kind of thought we reloaded that talent. Coming into the season, our front line is probably the deepest front line [in the league]."
On Seattle not having MF Osvaldo Alonso:
"He's a really good player. He covers a lot of ground for them and sometimes when the soccer is not right for them, he breaks up plays. He's obviously a good player and they probably could've used [him]. They had a couple guys who might've been tired due to national team duty. In saying that, that's the least of my problems. They're still a good team and they put out a good lineup. I thought it was a really strong performance by us."
On FW Alvaro Saborio's play:
"It's great to have him out there. He's a guy who left and was banged up so obviously when he's healthy we'd want to use him in as many games as we can. I just think if you play Sabo up there, you can play Robbie Findley. You can start [Olmes] Garcia. You can start [Joao] Plata. You can bring them off of the bench and play them underneath and give us that speed option up top. I think that works well with Sabo because he holds the ball up so well and kind of gives us a different dimension in the box as well."
Real Salt Lake DF Nat Borchers
On shutting down Seattle's forwards:
"We know they're dangerous with balls over the top. They like playing that entry pass to [Obafemi] Martins, then it's back and then through. We were just really aware of that tonight. I thought that we shut down the entry passes. I thought that we were dropping off when the ball was going over the top. We didn't let them get in behind us, which is where they are most dangerous."
On the RSL defense:
"I really thought our overall defensive shape was really good tonight. I thought, in particular the midfield, those guys were picking ball all night long. You know outside diamond midfielders Ned [Grabavoy] and Khari [Stephenson] were going down on their outside midfielders and that made a huge difference in the way we could defend."
On DF Carlos Salcedo's play:
"I thought he was solid. I knew he was going to have a big game tonight. You know he just made solid decisions. He was confident on the ball. He's getting better every time he steps on the field. I just think the more games you get, the more confident you get. It was the same way for me when I first got in the league. I was playing next to Robin Fraser. You know having a veteran defender telling you what to do and helping you out works. Carlos has a great veteran next to him."