Stop me if you’ve heard this story before: the Seattle Sounders dominated possession, created plenty of chances, and ... won a match! That’s exactly what happened on the 4th of July, when Seattle traveled to Colorado to face a Rapids team that sat just above them in the Western Conference. Thanks to a combination of high pressure up the field, strong movement and passing, and a few lucky bounces, Seattle will leave the Centennial State with three points and a 2-1 victory.
The Sounders began the game with most of the possession, but initially relied on a style of attack that has failed them far too often — sending direct, looping balls over the top to Will Bruin. This strategy hasn’t been successful prior to this match, and was even more difficult at altitude, where the ball soared over the end line or fell straight to Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard.
After a few minutes, however, Seattle began to get the ball to Victor Rodriguez more frequently. That strategy, combined with some great defensive pressure high up the field by Seattle, resulted in lots of strong interplay in the Sounders’ attacking half. In the 7th minute, an exchange between Rodriguez and Nicolas Lodeiro sprung the ball to Waylon Francis on the left flank. He whipped a cross into the box that was just over Bruin’s head and out of reach for Harry Shipp on the far post.
Building play through Rodriguez and Lodeiro paid off for the Sounders in the 19th minute. Rodriguez collected the ball in the middle of the field, dribbled at his defender, and was attempting to flick a ball to Lodeiro on his left. The pass was deflected and fell kindly to Bruin, who took one touch to his left to set himself up, then buried a low shot to the far-post corner.
Lucky bounce, good finish. Sounders up 1-0. pic.twitter.com/bniXCBAPUM— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) July 5, 2018
It was all Seattle after that point, at least until near the end of the first half. Jordan McCrary, who seemed to have acres of space to push the ball up the field early on, made a strong run into Colorado’s attacking half to create some chaos in the box. A few minutes later, Rodriguez pulled a Megan Rapinoe-like move at the top of the box, cutting the ball inside and slicing a shot from the corner of the 18. It sailed just over the bar. Seattle had the Rapids on the back foot, but just couldn’t seem to double their lead.
Then, in the 40th minute, a momentary lapse on defense gave Colorado the equalizer. Just one minute after Stefan Frei came out to deny Dominique Badji’s shot after he slipped in behind Francis, Rapids midfielder Edgar Castillo collected a ball about 20 yards out after a 50-50 challenge sent McCrary to the ground. Castillo crossed it toward the far post, where Francis trailed forward Sam Nicholson. The Rapids forward got there first and flicked the ball into the goal with his head — toward the far post, where Frei had no chance of saving it.
After the goal, Colorado had a bit more energy to close out the first half, but Seattle still ended with 63 percent possession and the better chances.
Unsurprisingly, the Rapids rode some of their late momentum and came out fighting harder as the final 45 minutes kicked off. The early high pressure from the Sounders began to wear off, but Seattle’s defense remained organized and kept things even.
That pressure returned at an opportune time in the 59th minute, when Seattle capitalized on some relaxed Rapids possession to put another goal on the scoreboard. After collecting a cross, Howard played a quick ball on the ground to Shkelzen Gashi. Instead of shielding the ball and turning out, Gashi took a touch inside, where Cristian Roldan was closing him down. Roldan broke up the play and it fell to Lodeiro, who dropped the ball to Rodriguez. The Spanish midfielder sent a perfect chip over the Rapids defense, which fell to Bruin, who took one touch to control the ball and then volleyed it mid-air into the back of the net.
With his last kick before subbing off, Will Bruin puts the Sounders ahead 2-1. pic.twitter.com/B3ZT7qsZTi— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) July 5, 2018
That would be Bruin’s last action, as he was replaced by Clint Dempsey immediately after earning his brace.
In the 83rd minute, Colorado had its best opportunity to equalize. After Kim Kee-Hee took what looked like an elbow to the face, the Rapids were 3-on-3 and pushing quickly up the field. A ball slid past Chad Marshall and Francis and was bouncing toward Gashi, who one-touched the ball and tried to place it to the near post, but Frei made a spectacular save to keep the Sounders ahead.
The rest of the match was a messy, foul-ridden affair. It was hardly a soccer game. Rodriguez went down after yet another challenge on him. A yellow card was handed out to Joe Mason for dissent — Colorado’s sixth on the evening. Badji got another shot off after getting around Francis, but Frei collected it easily. Kim nearly scored an own goal on Frei in stoppage time. Substitute Alex Roldan had a few key defensive actions to keep the Rapids away from goal.
Most importantly, Seattle closed out the game and scored more goals than Colorado. That, my friends, results in three points. The team continues its road journey and will face the New England Revolution on Saturday.