Quite possibly the worst performance that the Seattle Sounders ever occurred in the chilly, high air of Utah as Real Salt Lake netted three goals. Only Kasey Keller prevented that scoreline from being even greater. To list all of the mistakes that were made will take some time, but sadly it will happen. First, let's make something clear. This had nothing to do with a "CCL curse." Seattle's starters had played less minutes than Salt Lake's players. Alvaro Sabario had a tapper late in the first half, while his brilliant back heel in the 53rd minute was a prime example at everything RSL did right. Ned Grabavoy, a second half sub entry, sealed the first leg with goal number three.
So what happened? In no particular order;
Sammy Ochoa started. After getting physically dominated by Jamison Olave his greatest accomplishment on the evening was probably having Olave hurt himself while taking it to Ochoa.
Many Sounders decided upon seeing Ochoa that they would loft crosses into him. Said crosses didn't have the pace nor accuracy to create any problems, and Sammy wasn't able to separate from Olave or Nat Borchers.
Poorly aimed crosses at the target man got company in the bad play column. Joining them are random attempts at direct play. Seattle lacked the speed player to stretch the defense, or to catch up to the times that Fredy Montero won the 50/50 ball.
Seattle's defensive line struggled with the lateral movement and odd angles. The narrow diamond of Salt Lake flooded spaces where normally Osvaldo Alonso, Jeff Parke and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado would be able to cover two or three opponents. Instead there were four or more. Even when the Sounders won a tackle the ball inevitably bounce to someone in Claret.
When the defense won the tackle and the second ball they did not pass it out of the back. It was lumped forward, all too often just to an RSL player at about the centerline. This immediately started another wave of attacks. Jason Kreis' side constantly attacked similar to Seattle at its best.
With the central area getting dominated by Real Salt Lake the full backs of Seattle had to pinch in and help out. Which left Chris Wingert and Robbie Russell space to roam free. Those two created additional attacking angles for a team already commanding the game. Numbers favored Salt Lake in Seattle's defensive third and no counter attack was to come.
Sigi Schmid did put on the subs that could try and change the game. Possession and passing improved slightly, but only slightly. The best chances for Seattle never threatened Nick Rimando. As is all too typical the Sounders had five shots blocked, most notable Roger Levesque and Mike Fucito both fell victim to a leg or body into their way.
The hole is large. Three goals down with a quick turn around for a Wednesday night game at 7 PM. It may only be halftime. But the largest hopes for Seattle fans right now is that both of Olave and Borchers are injured, that Mauro Rosales is able to play and that Seattle returns to a playing style that attacks the ball and the goal through rapid passing up the pitch with a barrage of shots against the opposing net.
Tonight that doesn't feel too likely. Tonight the team was outplayed in every aspect of the game. It is probably their worst performance in a competitive match ever.