HARRISON, NJ – After winning the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for a fourth time in six seasons on Tuesday, Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid knew there was a possibility that his team might face a letdown on Saturday against the New York Red Bulls.
Just 30 seconds into the match, that thought was realized when Bradley Wright-Phillips scored the first of his three goals for the Red Bulls and Seattle's four-match winning streak was snapped with a 4-1 defeat at Red Bull Arena.
“Every time you have a game like that, you’re going to maybe start out flat,” Schmid said after the match. “We started out flat, but after 10 or 15 minutes we were ok. We made too many individual mistakes.”
Seattle started a strong group against the Red Bulls, though it was absent of Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, DeAndre Yedlin and Brad Evans, among others, as the foursome was rested after a rigorous 120-minute Open Cup final just four days earlier.
However, it took less than a minute for Wright-Phillips to give New York the lead.
Lloyd Sam crossed the ball to Wright-Phillips in the middle of the box and he laid it off to Ambroise Oyongo on the left side for a shot. Stefan Frei made the save, but the rebound spilled to the league’s leading scorer and he blasted it into the open net for a 1-0 lead.
Seattle looked to respond in the 11th minute on a break when Marco Pappa took the ball off of Chris Duvall and pressed up the left side, crossing to Kenny Cooper in the box. Cooper eluded Jamison Olave and hit a right-footed shot, but missed high.
That turned what was an otherwise dominant opening 10 minutes for New York, as Seattle kept the Red Bulls close at 1-0 until the halftime whistle.
“The early goal was rough. But I thought in the last 25-30 minutes in the first half we responded well,” said Sounders FC defender Jalil Anibaba, who started in Yedlin’s typical spot at right back. “You just try to stay focused.”
That momentum seemed to carry into the second half, but two quick strikes from New York put the game out of reach.
In the 53rd minute Sam surged up Seattle’s defensive left side and Dylan Remick was whistled for a foul on the edge of the box, drawing a penalty for New York. Frei got a hand to Wright-Phillips’ attempt, but it wasn’t enough to keep it out of the net and the lead jumped to 2-0.
He followed that up with a running, right-footed half-volley off a cross from Roy Miller bursting up the left side, completing the hat trick in the 56th minute.
“We didn’t play well, in my mind. Giving up that early goal was bad. We talk about it all the time, off the kickoff we want to put the ball in the other team’s end of the field and start the game from there. It started off badly for us there,” Schmid said. “The penalty kick in the second half killed us. We were naïve on the third goal as well and the game’s over.”
Not long after the third goal, Schmid subbed on Dempsey and Martins – at the request of the two stars, he noted after the match. It paid immediate dividends as Dempsey scored his 12th goal of the season in the 62nd minute on an assist from Lamar Neagle.
However, Tim Cahill scored in the 65th minute to put New York’s lead back to three goals at 4-1 and, try as they might, Seattle couldn’t get it any closer.
“I feel ashamed. It was an awful performance from us. We came in with a lot of expectations and we didn’t perform well,” defender Djimi Traore said. “They have good players and today they all performed well. If we don’t perform at that level, we get punished and that’s what they’ve done to us.”
Seattle won’t have too much time to dwell on the club’s first loss since August 16, as it will travel to Texas to face FC Dallas on Wednesday at Toyota Stadium. Sounders FC remains atop the Supporters’ Shield standings, even after the LA Galaxy won 2-1 over FC Dallas on Saturday evening. Seattle and LA are even with 54 points, but Sounders FC owns the tie-breaker with its 17 wins to the Galaxy's 15.