SEATTLE — When VAR determined that Pedro Santos had recklessly kicked at Alex Roldan in the 16th minute, giving the Seattle Sounders a man advantage, it was the kind of thing that seemed to herald a change in luck to a so far dreary season.
It didn’t work out that way.
The Sounders were forced to settle for a 0-0 tie with the Columbus Crew SC on Saturday; their first shutout of the season, but also the least dangerous they’ve looked at home in a very, very long time. Of the Sounders’ 14 shots, only one was on frame. That came in the 73rd. Aside from Clint Dempsey’s close-range chance, the Sounders never looked particularly dangerous and never put any sort of sustained pressure on the Crew defense despite 90.1 percent passing and 64.2 percent of the possession.
Santos’ red card was not initially even called a foul, but the replay clearly showed a reckless clearing attempt as the ball wasn’t even particularly high off the ground yet the midfielder managed to smack Alex Roldan near the face with his boot.
And Santos is sent off for this challenge.— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) May 5, 2018
Columbus down to 10 men. pic.twitter.com/2advO7FtMu
Perhaps a sign of how the rest of the day would go, the two best chances of the first half belonged to the Crew. First Gyasi Zardes was allowed to get in behind the defense, only put his shot inches wide. In the 36th minute, Zardes laid off a ball to Milton Valenzuela for a open chance that was hit over the bar.
In response to the rather feckless nature of the attack — and to perhaps save him for the Wednesday game against Toronto FC — Brian Schmetzer elected to remove Chad Marshall at halftime and insert Handwalla Bwana.
The Sounders continued to dominate possession, but the only thing close to a real scoring chances came in the 73rd minute when Will Bruin cut back a pass through the box that found Clint Dempsey streaking toward goal. Dempsey made decent contact, but Zach Steffen was able to make the save.
Was there anything good?
- Considering the Sounders had yet to register a shutout this year, that has to be considered a positive. And, to their credit, the defense aggressively challenged everything at midfield and essentially forced the Crew into pumping long balls out of the back while holding them to just one shot in the second half.
But, oh man, there was a lot of bad
- With Nicolas Lodeiro scratched with a “significant” foot injury, the Sounders had absolutely no creativity in the final third. Their 45 (!!!) crosses were 14 more than they’d had in any other game this year and might well be a club record. Seemingly every possession consisted of passing it around the top of the box, getting it to the wing and lobbing in a cross that had very little hope of being anything.
- The decision to start both Alex and Cristian Roldan as the outside mids deserves a fair amount of second-guessing. Both are fine players and might even be very good players, but neither are yet known for their creativity. The brothers Roldan combined to complete 3 of 15 crosses and had just one successful dribble. Using one of them is arguably designed to give the team some balance, but the team simply can’t afford to start both in offensive positions.
- The defense was mostly fine, but there were again a few mental lapses from Nouhou. The most notable of those was on Zardes’ chance, as he failed to challenge the shot almost at all. Once again, he failed to offer much going forward either, completing just 1 of 4 crosses with and recording only a lone successful dribble.
- More broadly, the time to turn around the season is quickly running out. In years past when they’ve struggled, the Sounders have still managed to find ways to win their homes games. We’re now four games into their home schedule and they’ve got just four points.
4-2-3-1: Frei; Leerdam, Marshall (Bwana 45), Kee-hee, Nouhou (Wingo 76); Alonso, Svensson; Cristian Roldan, Dempsey, Alex Roldan (Eikrem 63); Bruin.
4-2-3-1: Steffen; Valenzuela, Abubakar, Williams, Jimenez; Trapp, Clark (Abu 66); Higuain, Santos, Martinez (Crognale 31); Zardes (Jahn 78).
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