SANDY, Utah — It may not rank up there with the Bermuda Triangle or Loch Ness Monster, but the sudden disappearance of Seattle’s offense certainly qualifies as a mystery.
Sounders FC came into its match with Real Salt Lake sporting a dangerous offense that produced 13 goals in five games. The Sounders left Utah with a 2-0 loss where they tallied just two shots and did not create their first shot until deep into the second half.
The offensive stall seemed to come out of nowhere for a team that had been one of the hottest in MLS.
“I had a few training sessions with the team before the game and we were sharp in yesterday’s training,” Seattle forward Eddie Johnson said. “We just couldn’t get things going. We couldn’t connect passes today.”
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The Sounders did not play like a team that had won six of its last eight matches coming into Utah. Seattle seemed out of sync on both ends of the field and never generated any real momentum.
Seattle was listless from the opening kick, failing to produce a shot — much less a shot on goal — before halftime. The Sounders spent much of the time absorbing one attack after another by Salt Lake’s offensive playmakers.
Kyle Beckerman put RSL on the board in the 41st minute when he cleaned up a deflected free kick with a perfectly executed volley.
Javier Morales initially sent the ball right into Seattle’s five-man defensive wall. It bounced off Servando Carrasco and hopped out to Beckerman on the right side of the box. From there, the veteran midfielder uncorked a crisp right-footer on a high angle, pinging it off the cross bar.
“That is not an easy strike to take, and he took it extremely calmly and well,” RSL coach Jason Kreis said.
Seattle barely had time to implement its comeback strategy before Robbie Findley buried the Sounders for good just 40 seconds into the second half.
Findley tracked down a deep pass from Javier Morales and unleashed a right-footer just outside the six-yard box. Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning cleared the ball out to Khari Stephenson, who flicked it ahead to Findley again. Findley threaded the ball inside the left post on his second chance.
“It changed the game completely,” Sounders midfielder Brad Evans said. “Worst time for a team to get scored on is right after halftime. It is what it is. We were two goals down and chasing. Against a team like that, once you start pressing guys forward and cheat a little bit, they’re good enough to where they can connect four or five passes and the game opens up from there.”
Seattle never threatened to come back because it did not get off its first shot until Mario Martinez curled the ball from the right side of the box at RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando in the 73rd minute. It was the Sounders’ only shot on goal.
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid thought the team did a good job on defense in the first half, forcing RSL to turn over the ball and take long shots. Then the team unraveled mentally after yielding goals to Beckerman and Findley.
“Goals change games,” Schmid said. “From that point on in the second half, I thought they pretty much dominated us. At that point, I didn’t think we made smart decisions or played well. And they were the better team for sure.”
The loss left Seattle empty-handed once again against a Salt Lake team that took over first place in the Western Conference.
The Sounders, on the other hand, dropped back out of the conference’s top five, tied with the Los Angeles Galaxy in points but behind on goal differential.
“We talk about being a consistent team and competing with the best teams in the league,” Johnson said. “We can’t come out and give up a goal 40 seconds into the half. There’s too much experience on this team. There’s no excuses.”