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Five thoughts on Sounders running out of air a Mile High

The five-back formation doesn’t do the trick.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Three-game weeks are rarely fun, least of all when they involve fairly lengthy road trips. But the annoyances of travel and unfamiliar accommodations can be mitigated when you pick up results. That the Sounders were able to grind out a midweek road victory deep in the swamps of Texas meant there was an opportunity to cap off the week with a nine-point haul, which would have gone a long way towards erasing their slow start to the year.

It also presented coach Brian Schmetzer with the chance to continue to test his starters by pushing them into logging heavy minutes, as the Sounders prepare for the summer MLS slog. But there’s a cost to that, which the Sounders may have paid in their 1-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids Sunday, a match in which they never found the key to unlock the Rapids defense.

A difficult place to play even when playing on full cylinders, the Sounders were more start-stop Sunday. Schmetzer called the match dysfunctional, though perhaps what the Sounders had was a failure to communicate. And though the two main flashpoints during the match went against the Sounders, truth be told they just weren’t quite up to their usual standard. And in MLS even against the most pedestrian of sides, that can be enough to cost you a result.

Upon further review

VAR is something like a jury in deliberations. No matter how confident you are about the result, the longer they’re sequestered, the more you start to worry. On Raúl Ruidíaz’s penalty shout, the replays appeared conclusive that he was contacted in the box, which prevented him from continuing to make his attack on goal. So when Tim Ford was called to VAR screen in the 66th minute, it seemed like a forgone conclusion the Sounders would get a chance to level the match from the spot. Unfortunately, that chance never came, as Ford eventually decided that he couldn’t tell where the foul occurred. With the benefit of hindsight (and video) it seems a curious decision, but the Sounders will be left to wonder what could have been.

Bright start yields no return

It’s unclear what might be more frustrating: Wasting a good start to the match or being behind the pace from the beginning. For the Sounders, they were quite comfortable for significant portions of the opening half, with Jordan Morris in particular causing the Rapids backline significant problems. But much of those problems were solved either by timely defensive interventions or by a lack of quality at the crucial moment. And to be fair, the Sounders attack was hardly dynamic, with mistimed crosses or passes that crossed the endline well before a Sounder could get to it.

A goal this game deserved

Similarly frustrating might be the way the Sounders lost this match: on a shot/cross that was save/deflected by Stefan Frei, then pinballed off Yeimar Gomez Andrade, and finally tapped home by Jonathan Lewis. What had the Sounders grumbling after the match was the buildup, including what looked like a foul from Diego Rubio on Jackson Ragen contesting a goal kick. VAR declined to intervene on this occasion, and the Sounders spent the rest of the match playing catch-up.

Finishing eludes Sounders

The goal did seem to stir the Sounders, though it was hardly an onslaught. Still, the Sounders did have their chances, missed penalty shouts aside. But much like the Sounders attack, when they had their chance, they just didn’t have enough on the day. While Ruidiaz forced a few saves from William Yarborough, it wasn’t a stand-on-your-head performance by any means. And the other major chance from Jordan Morris was cleared off the line fairly routinely by Lalas Abubukar.

Five at the back

Schmetzer brought back the wingbacks in this one, and it didn’t really gel as it had at points last year. The absence of Alex Roldan, due to a red card in the Houston match, likely hurt as he provides significant service from wide positions, and has an obvious rapport with his brother Cristian. That might also explain why the older Roldan had some trouble influencing proceedings. And while Nouhou had some bright moments playing the left wingback, there wasn’t much in the way of truly dangerous interplay between he and Morris. That’s not his game of course, but all-told it might partially explain why the Sounders attack on the day wasn’t clicking.