It was an underwhelming display last night, but the Seattle Sounders held on to defeat the home-team Colorado Rapids 1-0, despite having a man advantage the entire match. Colorado played an aggressive game, pressing throughout while Seattle was content to use their man advantage and hit on the counter.
Obviously the key to this match was the third minute red card given to Brian Mullan for his leg-breaking tackle on Steve Zakuani. Earl has a post on this topic, so please share your thoughts on the incident in the comments of Earl’s post. I mention it simply because from that point on the tactics of the match changed. With Mullan off, Omar Cummings dropped from a forward position to the wing and left Caleb Forlan as the lone striker. Seattle put on Alvaro Fernandez to replace Zakuani in the mid-field.
The match’s only goal came in the 19th minute on a Seattle counter. Colorado had put together some good possession in the Seattle half but a turnover led to the quick strike. Seattle took advantage of being a man up when O’Brian White raced down the sideline and found Morales outside the Colorado box. Morales, drawing the retreating Rapids defenders, slide the ball to Fredy Montero who slotted the goal through the legs of Matt Pickens. Replays show that Pickens might have been able to make a play on the shot, but regardless it was Montero’s first goal since September 1.
After the goal, the Rapids controlled possession and used their passing to not only keep the ball away from Seattle but create an occasional chance despite being a man down. Seattle threatened throughout but it was the Rapids who showed the determination to try and salvage a point out of the match. They welcomed back Pablo Mastroeni to the lineup and his presence showed what Colorado had missed while he was out. Their midfield was the key to holding off many of the Seattle counters. The Rapids had a late flurry of activity in front of Kasey Keller but Seattle survived a Wells Thompson volley and a Forlan shot.
Obviously the play of this match was altered by the Zakuani injury; it is hard to completely focus after a teammate/opponent is so brutally injury, despite the fact it was unintentional. But Colorado showed how a team with ten men can stay in a match – take the game to the opposition and keep the ball while making your own chances. Seattle could have been more aggressive and tried end the match early by scoring a few more goals, but they came away with a needed three points.