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Feeling low at elevation

It was always a bit of a long shot, but the Sounders fell 2-0 in a frustrating loss away to RSL.

Last Updated
6 min read
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

The Sounders went on the road to Sandy, Utah for a midweek meeting with Real Salt Lake. Riding something like good form for the first time this season, Seattle had to rotate their lineup heavily and ran into a bit of a buzzsaw as they lost 2-0.

Despite some promising play and a couple of exciting forays into RSL’s area in the opening 20 minutes, once Carlos Gomez opened the scoring in the 27th minute the result went from the most likely outcome to seemingly inevitable. The goal came when Seattle lost possession far upfield and over-committed as they tried to re-win the ball. RSL were able to play out of the pressure on their left side and into the open space in the middle of the field vacated by the attempt to win the ball back, and were off to the races from there. Cody Baker did well to force Gomez onto his weaker left foot, but Stefan Frei had no chance on the shot as he was rooted to his spot.

Danny Musovski almost leveled the scoring right away, getting into a dangerous spot after a good play from Paul Rothrock to flick the ball on, but the initial shot was denied with a quality save from Gavin Beavers. The rebound gave Musovski an opportunity for a header, but the resulting shot was easily caught. The only real chance in what was left of the first half belonged to the hosts, but this time with Gomez forced onto his weaker foot again the shot didn’t trouble Frei.

Georgi Minoungou was one of the few bright spots for the Sounders, providing the vast majority of any reason to get excited for Seattle fans throughout the evening. His closest look at a goal came in the 49th minute, cutting into the box from the left with a little bit of industry and trickery before firing a shot that was deflected by Justen Glad sending it just wide of the post although Beavers did appear to have the shot covered.

Just before the hour mark Diego Luna put himself on the score sheet. Starting from a rather innocuous free kick around midfield, RSL caught the Sounders seemingly unprepared and got Luna on the ball driving at the goal. He cut centrally from the left channel and placed his right-footed curler out of Frei’s reach and into the side netting to double the lead. Frei came up with a couple more big saves down the stretch to keep things from getting any worse, but the damage was already done.

Léo Chú was forced out of the game with an injury that appeared to have him in tears while getting treatment in the first half. Raúl Ruidíaz apparently picked up an injury ahead of this game that the commentators seemed to indicate would keep him out for an extended period, although Schmetzer said it’s only a stubbed toe. The unbeaten streak ends, and the Sounders head back home to host the Vancouver Whitecaps once again on Saturday. Battered and bruised, they’ll need to pick themselves up quickly.

Key moments

6 - João Paulo hits a nice through ball for Minounogou who gets a cutback across right at the end line, but it’s trapped and cleared before a teammate can reach it.

15 - Léo Chú makes a nice move to play a ball to lead Rusnák into the box, but Rusnák’s first time shot from the top of the area is launched into the stands.

19 - Rusnák finds Musovski in the box with a perfect through ball, but Musovski can’t get it out from under his feet between two defenders to get a shot off.

22 - Having suffered an injury earlier, Léo Chú is forced to leave the game as he receives treatment on the side and Paul Rothrock enters in his place.

22 - Frei makes a huge save, pawing Brayan Vera's blast from the top of the box over the bar with his left hand.

27 - Goal, RSL. RSL pick the ball up deep in their end and immediately head down field. Carlos Gomez turns Cody Baker and fires into the bottom corner. 1-0 RSL

29 - Musovski nearly gets one back for Seattle off of some holdup play from Paul Rothrock, but Beavers makes a good initial save and a follow up header is caught.

38 - The Sounders give up another dangerous look with lots of space for RSL attackers in the area, but Gomez’s eventual shot is off target.

49 - Minoungou cuts into the box from the left and fires a shot that’s deflected by Justen Glad and goes just wide of the post and out for a corner.

58 - Goal, RSL. This time it’s Diego Luna finishing off a quick attack from a restart, hammering his shot across goal and into the side netting. 2-0 RSL

70 - Frei makes another big save, this time getting his fingertips to a Luna shot to make sure it goes over the bar.

74 - Frei comes up with another save, diving to his right to push a curling shot from Gomez away for a corner.

Quick thoughts

Slogging through the gears: Ignoring, for a moment, that the Salt Lake opener was made possible by an over-commitment from about four Sounders players to win the ball back deep in the opposing half that meant the entire middle of the field was left wide open, the play serves as a stark contrast to one of Seattle’s major struggles this year. RSL escaped the pressure and within a matter of seconds had made it down to the other end of the field and the Sounders were picking the ball out of the back of the net. When the Sounders would win possession in their half with a chance to counter, though, it often felt like they were struggling to progress the ball quickly enough to take advantage. The altitude can certainly slow teams down when they make the trip to Sandy, but the transition game has been a struggle for Seattle all season. If you can’t break down a set defense and you don’t give yourself the opportunity to capitalize on a team that’s got numbers forward and a scrambling defense, you’re going to have a hard time finding other quality opportunities to put goals on the board.

Knowing what game youre in: It certainly wasn’t the reason for the result, but not for the first time several players seemed to not realize or understand how referee Ismir Pekmic was calling the game. Numerous times, play continued with RSL in control while a Sounders player lay on the ground or sat in frustration and confusion looking for a foul. Similarly, Cody Baker and Cristian Roldan both received yellow cards on plays where they maybe overcorrected in the other direction as they put a bit too much into fouls. Needless to say, if you’re complaining to the ref while play continues, you’re not helping your teammates at that point.

Struggles of elder statesmen: Stefan Frei and João Paulo have both, at points in their times with the Sounders, been amongst the best in the league at their positions. They’ve both been in the running for the league’s individual awards but come up short, and are leaders within the team. It’s reasonable to hope, if not necessarily expect, that they’re still close to that level, but a third of the way through the season the evidence seems to be stacking against that idea. They’re not necessarily bad – see Frei’s saves – but they’re clearly not the players they once were. They’ve both been limited by injuries in recent years, and maybe those injuries and the unavoidable knocks of being a professional athlete have combined with Father Time to bring these club legends low, but they just can’t quite move the way they used to. Frei is frequently stuck on his line, unable to react quickly enough to close plays down before they become dangerous shots. JP doesn’t cover the ground he once did, and the ground he does cover takes him a little longer. The players around them are playing with human beings when they’ve grown accustomed to something else. Maybe it’s not time to move on just yet, but when we can’t expect as much from these players we need to get more from the rest of the team.

Notable quote

Player spotlight

Georgi Minoungou – It’s uncommon that a non-first team player is the best or most exciting player on the field, but that was the case tonight. Minoungou was dynamic if unpolished, creating most of the few moments of genuine excitement for the side.