Axel Sjoberg scored the game’s only goal in the 43rd minute as Colorado won in front of 41,028 spectators at CenturyLink Field.

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Playing against the first-place Colorado Rapids and in desperate need of points, the Sounders did everything well Saturday night at CenturyLink Field except for the only thing that ultimately matters.

Seattle took more than twice as many shots as Colorado and won a whopping 10 corner kicks. Its defense played mostly composed and its offense created a series of clear-cut scoring chances.

The Sounders did all that — and lost 1-0. In a phrase that is quickly coming to define this season, it just wasn’t Seattle’s night.

Axel Sjoberg scored the game’s only goal in the 43rd minute as Colorado won in front of 41,028 spectators at CenturyLink Field.

It remains difficult to pin down exactly what Seattle (4-6-1) is lacking, and what it needs to fix in order to save its season. But in describing the factors behind his team’s worst-to-first turnaround, Rapids coach Pablo Mastroeni inadvertently hit on a lot of what Seattle is missing.

“In football, rarely do things go your way,” Mastroeni said. “You must have a certain type of mentality and a certain type of group to overcome things, to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

“Tonight, we played one of the most courageous games of the year to this point. … It’s a difficult place to play. You can make a million different excuses — turf, rain. They were sharp tonight. But you don’t make excuses. You find ways to win.”

Winning teams develop what Mastroeni referred to as a “self-fulfilling prophesy.” Having overcome slow starts multiple times already this season, his team believed it could again … and did.

Having controlled most of their matches this year only to fall victim to isolated, individual mistakes, when Seattle captain Brad Evans got his pocket picked late in the first half and Colorado won a corner kick despite the ball appearing to touch forward Kevin Doyle last, a subconscious dread crept in.

“As soon as I made the mistake, I knew something was going to come of it,” Evans admitted afterward.

The Sounders cleared the first corner out for another, this time inexplicably losing track of the tallest player on the field. All 6-foot-7 of Sjoberg surged into an empty pocket of space and powered an uncontested header inside the right post.

From that point forward, even as Seattle continued to push forward, increasingly familiar doubts resurfaced.

“When you’re winning, everything seems easy,” Evans said. “Passes are connected, goals are banging into the back of the net, everybody is scoring. … When we’re in the position we are now, for whatever reason, things aren’t going our way.”

In a five-minute span midway through the second half, Jordan Morris fired a left-footed shot just wide and blasted a good look over the bar, and Clint Dempsey’s goal-bound header was cleared by Marc Burch.

This was a 90-minute demonstration of why Colorado is sitting in first place, with Seattle 14 points behind before its three-game East Coast road trip.

The Rapids moved with more purpose without the ball and defended as a coordinated unit. They shrugged off a slow start and some early mistakes, while the Sounders were done in by one of their few missteps.

“We’re getting the ball forward,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “We’re keeping good possession. We’re creating chances. We’re getting into crossing positions. Guys are getting decent looks on goal. It’s tough to say, you know, ‘It’s this one thing.’

“We did a lot of our training this past week in front of goal. … As a coach, I walk away with the feeling that there’s going to be a game that it’s going to be one, two, three, four into the back of the net. But tonight was not that night.”