A goal in the 84th minute lifted the last-place Colorado Rapids to a gritty 1-0 win over the Sounders, handing Seattle its fifth loss in six games.
Sounders defender Tyrone Mears lined up an early free kick near the right sideline, looking to turn what would prove to be his team’s best spell of the game into a rare goal.
Mears approached the ball, took a mighty swing at it with his right leg … and slipped on the shoddy temporary grass surface. His legs went out from under him, and Mears landed on his rump with a thud.
His team’s weekend followed a similar trajectory. Seattle entered Friday in a tie for first place in the Western Conference despite having lost four of its past five games. It left CenturyLink Field on Saturday night in a tie for fifth, as results elsewhere and a 1-0 home loss to last-place Colorado combined to drop the Sounders down the standings like a temporarily airborne right back.
Seattle (10-9-2) has now scored just two goals in six games since Obafemi Martins went down with injury and Clint Dempsey got suspended. In an effort to rally his teammates, veteran Zach Scott took charge of the pregame huddle Saturday.
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“ ‘It comes down to effort,’ ” rookie midfielder Cristian Roldan relayed the message. “ ‘If you have effort, you’ll win the game.’ Unfortunately, it wasn’t like that for us. I thought the effort was there. I think the effort has been there.”
There were a decent amount of scoring chances to go around, but few were clear-cut. Sounders forward Lamar Neagle had a cross blocked off his own leg for a goal kick after a well-placed through ball from Thomas in the first half. A timely interception from Mears denied a crashing Rapid at the back post closer to halftime.
Seattle coach Sigi Schmid made some of the lineup changes he hinted at earlier this week. The Sounders lined up in a 4-3-3 formation, Neagle, Thomas and Roldan up top with new signing Erik Friberg getting the start in the midfield.
The tinkering did little to lift the team’s recent offensive malaise.
The game action was tentative, wary. If you’re the type of imaginative person who likes to dream up hybrid sports — if you’re a bicycle polo enthusiast, say, or somebody who got swept up in the SlamBall craze of the 2000s — then Saturday night was the realization of a dream.
What if you merged soccer and hockey, playing the former on ice? The temporary grass surface installed at CenturyLink Field for Friday night’s Manchester United-Club America friendly was a mess.
“(It’s) grass on top of plywood,” Scott said earlier this week when asked to describe the playing surface, with just a few inches of earth separating the players from the pallets laid on the original turf.
Colorado’s Lucas Pittinari cut back a promising-looking pass for teammates Marcelo Sarvas and Charles Eloundou but neither could stop their momentum, sod flying and feet churning in place like a Looney Tunes gag.
The players held themselves back, untrusting. Seattle midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, he of the recent groin injury, looked especially gun shy, whiffing on several tackles as Rapids wriggled past.
Colorado looked more than comfortable settling for a draw when, with six minutes to go, Kevin Doyle muscled onto a long ball. Doyle pushed aside both Chad Marshall and Zach Scott, then finished inside the right post with a powerful shot.
And the Sounders were tagged with a second straight loss to a last-place opponent, this time in front of the stunned silence of their home crowd.
|Seattle is tied for fifth place in the Western Conference:|