Only the lineup carried over from Seattle’s 4-2 win in Portland last weekend.
The Sounders’ 1-0 victory over Colorado on Saturday at CenturyLink Field, on a Clint Dempsey goal, was a grinder instead of a goal-fest. It was a yard-by-yard battle for spaces that had been wide open six days ago, steady gray drizzle in place of brilliant August sunshine.
“One of the big things we talked about was we made a big statement last week, but a statement doesn’t mean anything unless you back it up,” said Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, whose team went five points clear in the Supporter’s Shield standings.
“If you want to go far in the playoffs, you have to be able to win games like this.”
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His starting 11 was unchanged for the first time all season, with Stefan Frei in goal and DeAndre Yedlin, Chad Marshall, Zach Scott and Leo Gonzalez ahead of him from right to left.
Colorado offered only an occasional threat, with most of them coming through long balls over the top.
“Yeah, I think (we) prefer those games,” Marshall said. “We like banging and going up for headers so anytime we get stuff like that we relish the opportunity.”
Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Gonzalo Pineda and Marco Pappa started for Seattle in the midfield, a quartet that passed around and through the Rapids’ defensive shell for the opening half-hour or so. But play began to stagnate from there, with the Sounders’ wingers indulging the temptation to cut further inside and clogging up the passing lanes — Seattle had 61 percent of the possession in the first half and just a single shot on goal.
“They come here (and) pack the middle,” Alonso said. “You’ve got to be patient, play wide and try to be more composed with the ball.”
Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey slotted in up top, with the latter controlling the game even before his 52nd-minute goal decided it through a series of timely passes and creative runs.
Dempsey had nearly crafted the opener five minutes into the second half with an incisive through ball for Yedlin, but the right back’s cross was blocked. Evans won a corner kick on the next attack on a pass from Pineda. Pappa curled the corner across the mass of bodies in the box.
Dempsey rounded off his run to meet the ball before smashing a half-volley underneath the bar and giving goalkeeper Joe Nasco no chance.
Nasco was making his MLS debut, a 30-year-old rookie and the league’s only licensed law-enforcement official. He once quit the game to take a full-time job as a sheriff in Calhoun, Ga., before catching on with the Atlanta Silverbacks at an open tryout.
He made the home fans sweat until the final whistle with a series of diving saves, leaving the Sounders with little time to turn on the style that so characterized the match in Portland.
There were few similarities to last Sunday but the one that counts.
“Most teams sit back and it opens up in the second half,” Dempsey said. “In an ideal world, if we can open the game up in the first half and get some goals, I think it makes the game easier for you.
“But the most important thing is the three points and getting two wins in a row.”
|Clint Dempsey scored his 11th goal Saturday to move within three of the Sounders’ season record.|
|Eddie Johnson, 2012||14|
|Fredy Montero, 2012||13|
|Fredy Montero, 2011||12|
|Clint Dempsey, 2014||11|
|Freddy Montero, 2009||9|