There's no reason to pretend the start of this season has been anything other than totally frustrating. This game was a perfect example of why. The Seattle Sounders weren't awful, heck they were pretty good for long stretches, but couldn't score and gave up a goal on a corner kick that probably should have never even happened. In a lot of ways, they outplayed the Supporters' Shield leaders, dominating possession and creating more chances. At least twice, I fully thought they had scored when the ball headed toward net and it obviously didn't happen (Jordan Morris' left-footed curl and Clint Dempsey's header off the corner kick, for the record).
In the end, more of the same.
Lots of the ball, not enough chances: Once again, the Seattle Sounders dominated possession. Once again, they found genuine scoring chances rarer than it felt like they should have been. It's tempting to say it was "possession without purpose" but that doesn't seem quite right. The Sounders generated 17 shots and nine of them were inside the penalty area and two others were from dangerous posts just outside the box. And yet, too often it felt like they were just passing the ball around without enough of a plan going forward.
The same could be said on their corner kicks, of which they managed to hold a 10-2 advantage. But the only time they looked dangerous on a set piece was Clint Dempsey's header that was somehow cleared off the line. Despite having Andreas Ivanschitz, the Sounders manage to be at the bottom of connecting on corners. Meanwhile, the Rapids only had two corners, got a wide open look on one and put it away.
Joevin Jones may have been the best example of this. Repeatedly he got into dangerous positions along the flank, and virtually every time he looked completely lost as to what to do. For all his ability to join the attack, he has been doing precious little with his opportunities when he's there.
Clint Dempsey was good, fight me: No, he didn't score. No, he didn't get an assist. But if you watched that game and thought "ugh, Dempsey was garbage," I seriously don't know what to say. The Sounders had a handful of decent looks and every one involved Dempsey. He was pulling tricks with purpose, touching around a defender and putting in a well-weighted ball to Jordan Morris only to have a defender break up the chance. Dempsey made a wonderful touch to put himself into space, again set up Morris but it came to nothing.
This is a tidy looking action map, with only four incomplete passes:
Dempsey completed 88 percent of his passes, took five shots and put four of them on frame. He was still getting pulled too deep into the midfield, yet this may have been his best offensive performance of the season. Of course, he didn't score and that's obviously a huge part of how he's ultimately judged, though. Sigh.
What lies ahead: The reason this was such a big game is that it's the last one at CenturyLink Field until ... June 25. That's more than a month away, in case you're not near a calendar. The Sounders will embark on a two-game road trip next week that will take them to the New England Revolution on May 28 and then D.C. United the following Wednesday.
The Sounders will make that trip without Dempsey and probably without Nelson Valdez, who despite missing the last two games with an injury is still expected to join Paraguay ahead of the Copa America Centenario. It could have been worse, of course, but Jurgen Klinsmann spared the Sounders and left Morris and Brad Evans here. Surely, both are rightly disappointed, but this would have been a lot more daunting without them. They'll close out the trip after the Copa America break with a road game against the New York Red Bulls on June 19.
Still, that's potentially a killer road trip and the Sounders have yet to win any of their four road games. If they can somehow manage four points, they could at least feel slightly better about their chances going forward. But Saturday's loss almost guarantees they'll be below the red line at the end of that trip almost no matter what happens during it. At the risk of stating the obvious: That's not where they wanted to be heading into the break.