Clint Dempsey did not save the Seattle Sounders. Not at all. Despite getting their top offensive player back, the Sounders gave up early goals off set pieces near the start of both halves, failed to do much with the heaps of possession they had and fell in disheartening fashion to the Vancouver Whitecaps, losing 3-0 on Saturday in front of 53,125 fans.
Although the Sounders didn't fall out of a playoff spot -- thanks to Real Salt Lake losing 6-4 to D.C. United -- they did miss out on an opportunity to reclaim the Cascadia Cup for the first time since 2011. The Whitecaps moved into the lead of the three-team rivalry cup, sitting atop the table with eight points to the Sounders' six. The Sounders still have two matches remaining against their rivals, one at home against the Timbers and another on the road against the Whitecaps.
The bigger picture is a bit more distressing. The Sounders have now lost four straight -- tying a franchise record -- have gone 1-7-0 in their last eight and are just 2-8-0 in their past 10. That's tied for the worst 10-game stretch in franchise history, even if you include the playoff matches at the end of the 2013 season that saw them finish 1-6-3. During this putrid run, the Sounders have managed just two goals in their past eight.
What failed them tonight, though, was a defense that had actually been holding up pretty well, all things considered. Since being undressed by the Timbers, the Sounders had given up just three goals in their past four.
But the night got off to an inauspicious start when Pa-Modou Kah found himself with an open look off a free kick that bounced around the box and Brad Evans couldn't quite clear. Kah took the volley and easily beat Frei to the near post in the 6th minute.
The Sounders eventually found the game, though, and actually looked the far better team over the half's final 15 minutes. Their best look came in the 42nd minute when Thomas sent in a cross that Brad Evans headed toward goal and off Kah's arm. But no penalty was called and the ball went out to Chad Marshall, who fired a low shot that David Ousted was just able to keep out.
Any momentum the Sounders had was gone just four minutes into the second half. That's when the Whitecaps caught the Sounders on a short corner, with Cristian Techera being given far too much space at the top of the penalty area. His low cross was back-heeled into the net by Kah, who scored more goals in this game than he had in his previous 57 MLS contests combined.
The final nail came in the 75th minute when Pedro Morales somehow curled his kick around the Sounders' wall and inside the near post to give the Whitecaps a 3-0 lead.
- Something is horribly, deeply broken right now. There's no better way to say it than that. While the concept of "pressing the panic button" is hard to define, whatever it entails needs to happen now. The Sounders just got outplayed, out-coached and out-everythinged by a good but nowhere-near-great Whitecaps team. Having Dempsey back and getting Obafemi Martins return will probably help some, but they aren't why the Sounders gave up three goals on set pieces. Something has to change and it has to change now before this season goes from highly infuriating to complete disaster.
- It should be said that the Sounders looked better in possession, but it may have actually hurt them this time. The Whitecaps had far too easy of a time getting out on the counter-attack and at least two of goals came after Sounders players committed fouls while trying to stop an attack. Did I mention how everything seems broken?
- There is a lot of time left in this season to salvage it, 11 games to be exact. But the Sounders won't have a ton of time to sulk. They are traveling to Vancouver for a Champions League game on Wednesday and then play five more matches this month. But first the Sounders have to start putting the ball in the net and defending smartly. They are doing neither of those things and this will be a painful month if they don't start.
- Oh, and just to make matters worse, the Sounders played the final five minutes or so with 10 men after Osvaldo Alonso came off with an injury of some sort. So, yeah.