Sounders beat Rapids thanks to Gspurning's impressive return
Osvaldo Alonso and Eddie Johnson scored as Seattle extended its unbeaten streak to five games.
Special to The Seattle Times
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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Welcome back, Michael Gspurning.
Making his first start in nearly three months, Gspurning was under assault early and often against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night, yet the Sounders FC goalkeeper was able to shake off a stunning opening salvo to help lead a key 2-1 road victory at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
The win kept the Sounders unbeaten in their past five Major League Soccer contests (2-0-3) and allowed the club to maintain its one-point edge over the Los Angeles Galaxy while moving into a third-place tie with Vancouver in the Western Conference. Seattle hosts Los Angeles in its next MLS match on Aug. 5.
Osvaldo Alonso provided the go-ahead score in the 65th minute, volleying a cross from Eddie Johnson, who paced the Seattle offense with one goal and one assist. The victory gave the Sounders (9-5-7) a three-game season sweep of Colorado.
"(Gspurning) is a guy who has a calming influence on the backs for us," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. "He's got good experience. He came up with a good save for us in the second half going to his left. He's able to deal with crosses with his size and punch things clear.
"Having him back in there for us, it gives everybody a little more confidence because they know the quality he has. We certainly missed him."
The Sounders have missed Gspurning since May 2 due to a hip injury. The 6-foot-5 goalkeeper was treated to a quick lead as a corner kick from Mauro Rosales in the second minute was headed home by Johnson. It was Johnson's team-leading ninth goal of the season.
Schmid expected his squad to be able to exploit the Rapids' defensive arrangement during corner-kick situations, and Johnson did just that.
"We've got some height on the team and we've got some guys who are great headers of the ball," Johnson said. "It was just about Mauro putting the ball in an area where we could attack it. I think Jeff Parke made a good pick on (Rapids defender) Marvell Wynne and I was able to get free and just redirect the ball into the net."
The sudden lead, however, was short-lived. Colorado answered almost immediately when Brian Mullan's cross traveled all the way across the Seattle goal mouth to Drew Moor, who made no mistake from near the back post.
Gspurning recorded several impressive saves after Moor's equalizer, allowing the Sounders to finally retake the lead on Alonso's first goal of the season. Gspurning made a pair of crucial stops in quick succession midway through the second half, including a diving stop of a shot by the Rapids' Conor Casey in the 76th minute.
Although Gspurning was credited with just three saves, he thwarted a number of scoring opportunities from a Rapids attack that produced 17 shots.
"It was a great win," Gspurning said. "I need a couple games more to get to the point where I was before the injury from a physical standpoint. I have to say thank you to the trainers, the doctors and the coaches because they brought me back to this point where I can play again.
"It was a very long injury. Too long, of course, but I'm really happy that I'm back in now."
|Seattle||1 1 — 2|
|Colorado||1 0 — 1|
Seattle — Michael Gspurning, Patrick Ianni, Jeff Parke, Adam Johansson, Leo Gonzalez, Mauro Rosales, Osvaldo Alonso, Alex Caskey (Andy Rose, 80th), Brad Evans (Marc Burch, 83rd), Eddie Johnson, Fredy Montero (Zach Scott, 87th).
Colorado — Matt Pickens, Tyrone Marshall, Marvell Wynne, Luis Zapata, Drew Moor, Joseph Nane (Wells Thompson, 62nd), Jeff Larentowicz, Martin Rivero, Brian Mullan (Andre Akpan, 81st), Conor Casey, Omar Cummings (Kamani Hill, 61st).