Seattle Sounders found a way to win against Colorado Rapids. A most unusual way.
The MLS Playoffs got off to a memorable start in Seattle as the Sounders knocked out the Colorado Rapids. Although the most talked about subject will be the referee and some of the unusual decisions that Silviu Petrescu made. But for the second match in a row the Sounders were the beneficiary of the officiating.
Sounders brought out the the interchangeable midfield lineup of Clint Dempsey, Osvaldo Alonso, Adam Moffat, and Brad Evans that was effective against LA Galaxy. Rapids Coach Oscar Pareja deployed a 4-3-3 against the Sounders 4-4-2. Sounders had the better of play in the midfield with their numbers advantage for possesion while the Rapids appeared content to defend and look for their opportunities to counter-attack and get behind the Sounders defence.
Lamar Neagle had a noteworthy performance, not because he played particularly well, but for all of his histrionics. Neagle had a verbal warning in each half for fouls. In the 12th minute Neagle found space behind the back line of Rapids with German Mera let a long ball from Michael Gspurning bounce past him for Clint Irwin. There was clearly a miscommunication between the two players and Neagle attempted a header that went wide when he may have had time for a touch. A minute later Neagle had a ball drop in front of him in the penalty box on a ball in from Adam Moffat.
Rapids found space on a counter-attack 17 minutes in when Martin Rivero got behind the Sounders backline. There really wasn’t much of a threat from it, Sounders defense was able to recover on Rivero and no Rapids player came to support the attack. Dempsey had several shots that were around the frame, one from 25 yards just to the right of the semi-circle that went over the bar and appeared to have Irwin beat.
Sounders would get on the scoreboard first in the 28th minute when Leo Gonzalez overlapped Adam Moffat and crossed the ball in.The Rapids were not able to clear the ball from the penalty area and Brad Evans trapped the ball with his chest and hit the back of the net with his volley. A big relief for Sounders who have not been scoring many goals recently. Evans who missed two sitters in Dallas now has a club goal that compares with his USMNT goal against Jamaica.
Neagle found himself with another scoring opportunity from Dempsey on a simple give and go that the Federal Way native was not able to put on frame. Rapids were only able to create two shots in the first half, it was in the 45th minute that Gspurning was called into action to save a shot from Rivero.
DeAndre Yedlin suffered an injury as the half drew to a close and would not be able to continue. The goal scorer, Evans, filled his space at right back and Marc Burch moved into the left mid position to start the second half. Burch showed his worth with a left-footed set piece that beat Irwin but didn’t get past the crossbar.
Colorado showed much more life in the second half and Deshorn Brown got Colorado’s second shot on frame 10 minutes into the second half. It didn’t really get any better for the Rapids.
Petrescu had some curious decisions in the match to say the least. There were two verbal warnings given to Lamar Neagle. Neagle was given a verbal warning for a foul away from the ball on former Sounder Nathan Sturgis in the first half. Given another verbal warning in the second, and was eventually shown a yellow card in the 78th minute for shoving a defender into Irwin.
Colorado narrowly escaped a penalty kick on two separate and consecutive handballs. Both seemed obvious from the press box, and defenders were clearly not in natural positions when they handed the ball in the area. Advantage was gained but no penalty kick was awarded. Hendry Thomas could be seen shaking his hand after the ball hit it and it still wasn’t called. A truly interesting moment happened with Clint Dempsey and Clint Irwin outside of the penalty area. Irwin came out to win a ball with Dempsey bearing down. The Rapids goalkeeper was levelled by Dempsey, who jumped in the air into Irwin. Irwin was incredulous as he was booked.
Gspurning was also booked when he came out of the box in the 85th minute and deliberately handed the ball and then knocked Edson Buddle to the ground. It was unclear whether Gspurning was shown red for the deliberate handball or violent conduct. He will miss the home leg against Portland Saturday and may have lost his starting position for the remainder of the playoffs.
Sounders went to 10 men and Lamar Neagle made way for Marcus Hahnmann to replace Gspurning. Zach Scott came on moments later for Adam Moffat to defend the one goal lead. Shockingly, Rapids conceded a goal shortly after Gspurning was sent off. Eddie Johnson gave a ball back to Dempsey at the top of the box and his shot missed narrowly. Minutes later EJ had a go of his own, kept the ball for himself, and was able to finish past Irwin for the final goal.