Sounders’ defense hitting new low as playoffs approach
Sounders FC’s defense is in shambles, having given up nine goals in two blowout losses. Seattle’s 38 goals allowed are already a franchise worst for a season, and there are still three games to go.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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The empty seats might have been just as memorable as the defeat.
Then, upon the final whistle, boos uncharacteristically rained down from the few Sounders FC fans who stayed to the end of a miserable 4-1 loss Wednesday to Vancouver at CenturyLink Field.
The occasional blowout is one thing, but this came just five days after a 5-1 beating in Colorado.
“It can’t happen again — two in a row,” said team captain Mauro Rosales. “Unacceptable.”
Nine goals in the two drubbings has ballooned Seattle’s total to 38 goals allowed this season, the worst in franchise history with three games still to go — this from a defense that also has 11 shutouts, one shy of a team record, and had given up just three goals in its previous seven games.
Hard to explain, but it encapsulates a year that has had some of the team’s highest highs and lowest lows.
This valley, however, is most troublesome coming just before the playoffs, which the Sounders are still expected to qualify for despite blowing chances to do so the past three games.
“I don’t know, maybe it’s the pressure of the end of the season, the playoffs, the first time the club is in position to win the (Supporters’ Shield),” defender Djimi Traore told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s not easy to deal with it. But now we need to show some character and as experienced players we need to step up and drive the team.”
Added rookie DeAndre Yedlin: “I think it’s just one of those times where it’s kind of just falling apart, I guess.”
There is plenty of blame to share as the goals gather. Defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, who had been enjoying a late-season resurgence, played a large part in the first couple allowed to the Whitecaps. Midfielder Andy Rose and goalkeeper Michael Gspurning were the main culprits in the latter two. Some critical defensive errors in Colorado were also made by Yedlin, Zach Scott and Marc Burch.
Schmid also thinks luck hasn’t been on his team’s side.
“It seems like the last two games when the other team shoots, they score,” he said.
The issues on offense are a bit more complicated, as the Sounders have scored one goal the past four games. Finishing is a concern, as Seattle has converted just three of its last 49 shots, but personnel woes have hit hard, too.
Against the Rapids, Clint Dempsey and Steve Zakuani weren’t available due to injury. When they returned Wednesday, Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans were away with the U.S. national team.
The news got worse Thursday when U.S. Soccer revealed Johnson suffered a groin strain in practice and won’t be able to play in World Cup qualifiers Friday against Jamaica and Tuesday at Panama.
Johnson was scheduled to undergo an MRI Thursday, but the extent of his injury wasn’t revealed.
World Cup qualifying will resume Friday for the U.S. without its captain. Dempsey was omitted from the roster as he recovered from a hamstring injury.
Even after recovering enough to play Wednesday, Dempsey said it wouldn’t be weird having to watch: “We’ve already qualified for the World Cup, so I’m not worried.”
And what did he make of the decision that had him stay with the Sounders?
“It’s whatever; it’s not my decision to make,” Dempsey said. “I haven’t been playing. I’ve been hurt. All I’ve trying to do is rehab and come back the best I can come back. That’s all I control.”
|Two of the Sounders’ worst losses in MLS regular-season games have come the past week; three have been this season.|
|Aug. 2, 2009||at San Jose||4-0|
|May 8, 2010||vs. Los Angeles||4-0|
|May 26, 2013||at Los Angeles||4-0|
|Oct. 5, 2013||at Colorado||5-1|
|Oct. 9, 2013||vs. Vancouver||4-1|
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.