The last time the Union traveled to Seattle to take on the Sounders, they ran out 2-0 winners at CenturyLink Field. On Saturday afternoon, there would be no repeat performance. The Union never looked like scoring, and Seattle walked away with a comfortable 1-0 win.
Mauro Rosales put the hosts ahead in the 63rd minute, and the Sounders easily could have had more were it not for two balls off the wood work and some sharp goalkeeping from Zac MacMath. In the end, the Union could only muster one shot on goal: A weak, rolling effort that failed to trouble Bryan Meredith, who, was never bothered as he recorded a shutout in his first MLS start.
Returning from his one-game suspension, Keon Daniel rejoined the starting lineup in place of Amobi Okugo, pushing Kai Herdling up top to provide more support for Lionard Pajoy. This meant that Gabriel Gomez dropped into the defensive midfield slot. Defensively, rookie Ray Gaddis swapped places with Sheanon Williams, moving to left fullback for the first time as a pro and facing off with Seattle’s captain and playmaker, Rosales.
Coming off of a midweek victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid rang the changes, resting 3/4 of his backline in Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Zach Scott and Leo Gonzalez. Additionally, goalkeeper Bryan Meredith made his first MLS start, replacing the injured Michael Gspurning. Andy Rose debuted in the midfield for the Sounders, pushing David Estrada up top in place of Eddie Johnson, who was also rested.
With all the changes for the Sounders and a more attacking look from Philadelphia, Union fans would have expected an aggressive showing from their side, but it was Seattle who seized the early ascendancy, with Gaddis forced to clear Fredy Montero’s shot off the line in the 7th minute. Carrying over from their 2-1 defeat at the hands of San Jose, the Union midfield failed to control the center of the pitch, and Gabriel Gomez and Michael Farfan were never on the same page. With both players delaying on the ball, Seattle found it easy to defend the middle of the park, and Osvaldo Alonso repeatedly dispossessed the Union’s central midfielders with alarming ease.
The Union’s struggles were not limited to the midfield, however, with Lionard Pajoy failing to make inroads against Jeff Parke and Patrick Ianni. Meanwhile, Kai Herdling continued to drop deeper and deeper to help out on defense and try to get on the ball. The Union were left to try their luck from set pieces. But whether it was Adu or Gomez, neither was able to create any magic, and the majority of their efforts failed to beat the first defender.
The Union nearly went up a man in the 30th minute when Andy Rose, already carrying a yellow card for a bad tackle on Michael Farfan, should have been given his walking papers from referee Ricardo Salazar when he cut down Freddy Adu from behind. Somehow though, Salazar failed to show the debutante his second yellow, and Seattle was let off the hook.
Despite the dearth of offensive chances in the first half, neither side made any halftime changes. As in the first half, Seattle came out the fastest, with Rose nearly breaking the deadlock in the 47th minute. Mauro Rosales’ corner kick was on the mark for Rose who, with Keon Daniel rooted to the ground, powered a header off of the crossbar before Zac MacMath could react.
It was the best chance of the match, and the Sounders looked intent on creating the opener while the Union continued to lack drive and chemistry through the midfield. Still trying to adjust to MLS, Kai Herdling, worked hard throughout the match but still could not connect with his teammates. Not that any of the Union midfielders looked capable of creating an opening in a match where all four preferred to go it alone, looking for the one sensational ball rather than seeking out possession and territory as a unit.
With the Union pressing their fullbacks higher and higher up the pitch, Seattle nearly had the breakthrough when Andy Rose slipped into the box. But he elected to look for Rosales rather than have a go himself, and the chance went begging.
Minutes later, Fredy Montero nearly found the back of the net with Rosales setting the table, but the curving effort went just wide of MacMath’s far post.
With Seattle pushing for the opener, Sigi Schmid brought Eddie Johnson into the game. John Hackworth replied by strengthening his defense, removing Herdling for Brian Carroll.
Schmid immediately got the better of the move as Seattle dragged the entire Union defense to the right flank in the 63rd minute. Montero, spotting the run of Rosales on the opposite wing, delivered a cross field ball into the Argentine’s path. With all day to decide on his finish, he powered a low shot past a helpless MacMath.
There would be no reply from the Union, as Seattle continued to pour on the pressure. First it was David Estrada’s driving run that should have resulted in a goal-scoring effort. Minutes later, it was Montero who forced a diving save from MacMath. Despite doing well to get his hands to the rasping shot, the Union keeper spilled the rebound into the path of the onrushing Eddie Johnson, but the striker was flagged for offsides.
In the 76th minute, John Hackworth finally made the offensive substitution the Union craved, bringing Danny Mwanga into the match for the ineffective Michael Farfan. Seven minutes later, Josue Martinez would also enter the fray for Gabriel Gomez, but not before the Panamanian earned his fourth yellow card of the season, meaning he is one away from a mandatory suspension.
Despite the offensive nature of these substitutions, it was Seattle who had the best chance of the final minutes as Montero, a constant thorn in the Union’s side throughout, was able to turn at the top of the box and lift a delicate, curling shot that clipped MacMath’s cross bar.
With the Union out of ideas, Seattle saw out the final minutes without concern, winning their fourth straight match. After having recorded their first two victories of the campaign, the Union have since lost their last two and only scored 5 goals in 8 matches in the 2012 season.
Zac MacMath; Sheanon Williams, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdés, Raymon Gaddis; Gabriel Gomez (Josué Martinez ’83), Keon Daniel, Kai Herdling (Brian Carroll ’61), Michael Farfan (Danny Mwanga ’76), Freddy Adu; Lionard Pajoy
Unused Substitutes: Chase Harrison, Porfirio Lopez, Amobi Okugo, Cristhian Hernandez
Bryan Meredith; Marc Burch, Patrick Ianni, Jeff Parke, Adam Johansson; Osvaldo Alonso, Andy Rose (Eddie Johnson ’61), Mauro Rosales (Leo Gonzalez ’82), Alex Caskey (Servando Carrasco ’89); Fredy Montero, David Estrada
Unused Substitutes: Andrew Weber, Zach Scott, Cordell Cato, Sammy Ochoa
63 – Seattle: Mauro Rosales (Fredy Montero)
18 – Seattle: Andy Ross (Caution)
78 – Philadelphia: Gabriel Gomez (Caution)