Early chances come back to haunt Sounders in loss to Columbus

SEATTLE – For two-thirds of the match on Saturday against the Columbus Crew, Sounders FC looked every bit the winner as it grasped a 1-0 lead at CenturyLink Field.

Seattle had solved the vexing possession play of the Crew to create several opportunities in the attack. Kenny Cooper’s goal was all that came from it though, showing that it wasn’t just the final third of the match that didn’t go Seattle’s way, but the final third of the field as well.

“We did what we thought we’d be able to do. We knew that they liked to spread the field and they spread their players on the field and that when you can intercept passes you can get at them pretty quickly and the flank areas are open because their outside backs are up so high,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “We got the goal off of that kind of play. Cooper had another good look. Lamar (Neagle) had a really, really good look as well. Those chances … we needed to make sure that we buried them.”

The first of those opportunities came in the 20th minute, as Gonzalo Pineda stopped Wil Trapp in the middle of the field and quickly sprung Neagle, but his running shot was cleared just over the crossbar by Columbus goalkeeper Steve Clark.
Two minutes later, Cooper got out on the run again, slowed to make his defender commit as he got into the box, then rifled a shot into the back of the net for his first goal of the season for Sounders FC, giving Seattle a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute.

It looked like a harbinger of things to come, as Seattle continued to get those types of chances by winning the ball in the midfield and playing the instantaneous outlets. Another quick-strike from Neagle was stymied by Clark in the 39th minute.
“I feel like it was one of the better halves that we have put together as a team. I definitely had a couple of chances that if I bury them it’s a different story,” Neagle said. “It’s definitely going to be on my mind all night and all tomorrow. It's one of those things that, like I said, if I put some of those chances away – I had plenty – then it's a completely different story. The game is deflated, they’re out of it, they’re away from home and we’re up two, three goals. Yeah, it’s frustrating thinking about it."

All of that momentum shifted in the 58th minute when Djimi Traore was shown a red card for contact with Dominic Oduro in the box, giving Columbus the equalizing penalty, as well.

Down a man, Seattle put up a good fight and was willow-strong in holding off Columbus’ possession that was at 71-percent over the final 30 minutes of the match. However, a momentary loss of focus on the final play that proved to be the difference-maker, as Federico Higuain played a quick corner to Justin Meram at the top of the box and the second-half substitute had a well-placed finish to put Seattle away 2-1.

“Disappointed in the final result. I think our group deserves better than that tonight. I thought we had some really good chances in the first half. We could have maybe gotten another goal in the first half that would have made the game a little easier,” Schmid said. “Certainly the penalty kick and the red card becomes a crucial play and you know then at that point they are a pretty good possession team then it’s a little bit hard to chase it. Even then we got forward a couple times and then at the end of the game we didn’t react well.”

Sounders FC will look for redemption on Saturday against the Portland Timbers at Providence Park, facing off against an 0-2-2 Timbers team that will be hungry for its first win.