SEATTLE – For the first time this season, the Sounders find themselves in a slump.
Despite outshooting the Columbus Crew 21-5 and putting six of those shots on frame to just two for the Crew, Seattle couldn’t find the back of the net and fell 2-0 to Columbus for the first time in eight competitive matches and the Sounders are now winless in their last three matches.
“We need to soul search. I need to soul search. We’ve got to have a coming to the mountain and understanding that we have to get back on the same page,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said.
Justin Meram scored a first-half goal and Alvaro Fernandez just missed equalizing before the half, an opportunity that proved costly for the Sounders as Emilio Renteria would add a goal in the second half and Andy Gruenebaum made six saves for his fourth shutout of the season to drop the Sounders to 7-3-2 on the season.
The Sounders looked for an early goal against the visiting Crew and got three shots away in the first ten minutes, but two were blocked and the third was saved by Gruenebaum.
At the other end, Dilly Duka sent a cross in from the right side and Meram cut in front of Adam Johansson to head the ball back inside the right post for his third goal in the last three games to give the Crew to 1-0 lead in the 15th minute.
Seattle would turn up the pressure on the Crew for the rest of the half and Eddie Johnson got a left-footed running volley away in the 33rd minute and Brad Evans and Fernandez both narrowly missed on shots in first-half stoppage time. On Fernandez’s attempt, David Estrada got room for a cross from the right side and found Fernandez at the far post, but his header skipped back across the goal and went outside the opposite post.
“Goals change games. It doesn’t matter how much possession we have or how much we dominate that part or how much possession we have in their end of the field. It’s the final quality of what you do,” Schmid said. “Right now we’re just making individual errors and those individual errors are costing us. People are punishing us for them.”
As they did in a 2-2 draw with Vancouver on Saturday, the Sounders came out firing to start the second half. In the 51st minute, Estrada crossed a ball to Fredy Montero in the box from the right side. Montero collected the ball on his left foot, then blasted a left-footed shot that Gruenebaum lunged at to swat it away for the save.
Montero would have four more shots for a franchise-record nine on the match, but it would be Renteria who would find the only goal of the second half.
In the 76th minute, Columbus took a throw in that bounced between players before falling to the feet of Renteria, who was searching for his first goal of 2012 after scoring a team-high eight goals in 2011. The ball took one bounce in front of him and he lobbed a shot over the head of Bryan Meredith and into the net for the 2-0 lead.
“I’m definitely not expecting him to hit that first time. I don’t think any of us were. But he hit it well,” Meredith said. “If I had just dropped back a little bit quicker I think it would have been an easier save rather than a goal.”
The Crew improved to 4-4-3 with the win, while the Sounders are left looking for their first win since May 9, when they finished off five straight wins.
“Going 0-2-1 in the last three games is something that we’re not happy about, but we have to make this streak as short as possible and get out of it,” Schmid said.
The Sounders will look to get back in the win column against Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, on Saturday, looking to extend their nine-match road unbeaten streak.
Sounders FC – None.
Crew – Justin Meram (Dilly Duka, Emilio Renteria) 15; Emilio Renteria 76.
Sounders FC – Marc Burch (caution) 85; Osvaldo Alonso (caution) 88.
Crew – Dilly Duka (caution) 47; Carlos Mendes (caution) 71.
Sounders FC – Bryan Meredith, Adam Johansson (Jhon Kennedy Hurtado 61), Zach Scott, Jeff Parke, Marc Burch, David Estrada (Andy Rose 78), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Alvaro Fernandez (Mauro Rosales 61), Fredy Montero, Eddie Johnson.
Crew – Andy Gruenebaum, Sebastian Miranda, Carlos Mendes, Josh Williams, Nemanja Vukovic, Dilly Duka (Tony Tchani 57), Danny O’Rourke (Kevan George 45), Cole Grossman, Justin Meram (Bernardo Anor 80), Eddie Gaven, Emilio Renteria.