In a match where they started with just 16 available players and lost their two best defenders to injury inside 22 minutes, the Seattle Sounders somehow managed to score what could turn out to be a season-defining win.
Behind a pair of goals from Clint Dempsey and another from Will Bruin, the Sounders beat the Colorado Rapids 3-1 on Tuesday. In the process, the Sounders snapped a five-game winless run on the road and at least temporarily moved into a playoff spot in their final game before the Gold Cup break.
That it went this way was somewhat surprising, given the state of the roster even before kickoff. With three players missing due to Gold Cup call-ups and a host of injuries, the Sounders were forced to field a bench two shy of the limit. Among their four outfield bench players was Harry Shipp, who was sporting a hefty cast on his arm after suffering a right hand fracture. The lineup also included Jordy Delem at right back, after the Sounders were able to convince Martinique to let him return from Gold Cup prep early.
The Sounders were able to jump out to a fast start, scoring on a play that ended with Joevin Jones feeding Clint Dempsey about 12 yards out. Dempsey stroked his left-footed attempt perfectly inside the far post.
The personnel situation went from bad to worse in the 17th minute when Osvaldo Alonso was forced out with what is being called a knee injury. Alonso went down hard on a tackle — with no foul called — and then had to be stretchered off.
As if that weren’t enough, Chad Marshall went down with an ankle injury in the 22nd minute. He was at least able to remain on the sideline with an ice pack, though.
Undeterred, the Sounders grabbed another lead. This time it was Will Bruin getting in behind the defense on a Nicolas Lodeiro free kick that Dempsey flicked forward.
The Sounders came close to grabbing a third before halftime with Aaron Kovar and Dempsey both getting good looks. Kovar put a point blank volley through the front of the goal and Dempsey had a sliding attempt at an open goal blocked.
Dempsey also had a good shout for a penalty in the 71st minute when he slipped in behind the defense, was pulled from behind and put his shot wide.
The Rapids finally started to turn the match around shortly after. Alan Gordon missed an open sliding shot at the far post just wide, hit a header off the crossbar a few minutes later and then Stefan Frei came up with the save of the match, stopping Dominique Badji’s point-blank header off the rebound. When Badji scored in the 77th minute, it looked like the Rapids may actually pull off the comeback.
Instead, Dempsey came up with an absolutely vintage play. The play started with a seemingly harmless long ball from Stefan Frei that Bruin headed forward. Dempsey got behind the defense, let the ball bounce once and then hit a left-footed volley that looped over Tim Howard’s head and into the net.
The Sounders will next host D.C. United on July 19, presumably when they’ll have something much closer to a full lineup.