Dempsey’s Brace Sees Seattle Past Colorado by Chris Brown
A rematch of 2016’s Western Conference Semi-Final took place as Colorado Rapids welcomed the Champions, Seattle Sounders, to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for a July 4th battle.
Seattle had to play without Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan who are both currently serving with the U.S. Men’s National Team but Clint Dempsey got the start in Brian Schmetzer’s 4-4-2 formation. Seattle’s roster was threadbare coming into the match with only 16 players traveling to Colorado for the match.
After Colorado’ 3-1 win over Houston Dynamo, Pablo Mastroeni left his line up almost unchanged but was still forced to play four halfbacks in the Rapid back four as his preferred centerbacks are currently injured, though a healthy Kortne Ford was left on the bench.
The match had barely gotten underway before Seattle grabbed the opening goal silencing the home crowd. Clint Dempsey took advantage of some clear confusion among Colorado’s makeshift back four to find a clear channel at Tim Howard’s near post and was picked out expertly by Joevin Jones. Dempsey took a touch before shooting past Howard to the bottom right corner of the Rapids goal.
In the 17th minute Brian Schmetzer was forced to make an early substitution after Osvaldo Alonso had to leave the pitch injured, making room for Aaron Kovar.
Kovar almost made an immediate impact in the 20th minute when he had a chance to put the Sounders up by two, but curled a left footed shot wide of Tim Howard’s goal.
Brian Schmetzer was put in an even more difficult situation in the 22nd minute when he had to use his second substitution, so early in the match, when defender Chad Marshall had to come off the pitch with an injury and was replaced by Tony Alfaro.
The match began to get chippy around the 25th minute as several hard challenges resulted in Sounders players laying on the pitch while Colorado players pleaded their innocence to the referee. The crowd, a sellout due to the post-match fireworks, was happy to boo the referees decision to use his whistle, but the Colorado players appeared frustrated and some early yellow cards were warranted.
Colorado finally put Seattle under pressure from the 20th minute to the 30th but were unable to capitalize on their brighter play.
In the 30th minute, somewhat against the run of play, Seattle was able to extend their lead. A long ball into the box was tapped on to Will Bruin who capitalized on an Eric Miller slip to easily put the Sounders up by two goal to nil. Perhaps it was also due to two wing players being forced to play at centerback, because both Miller and De Fonte should have done better to close down a ball that hung for ages in the air before arriving in the box.
At halftime the score was 2-0 to the Sounders and the Rapids hopes that the weekend’s win over the Dynamo would boost them to a brighter second half of 2017 seemed to be hanging by a thread.
At halftime Pablo Mastroeni made his first change of the match bringing on attacker Caleb Calvert for defender Mekeil Williams.
After the break Colorado did come out with a little more energy but were lucky to not have a man sent off after Mike De Fonte committed two rash challenges just a minute apart.
De Fonte saw yellow for the first tackle and could have easily seen a second yellow for an off the ball tackle just a minute later, but the referee was lenient.
Colorado used their final two subs as the game reached it’s final 30 minutes bringing on former Sounder Michael Azira and target man Alan Gordon.
In the 75th minute Colorado should have cut Seattle’s lead in half after Caleb Calvert sent in a wonderful cross to pick out Alan Gordon, who had beat Nouhou Tolo to the far post, getting on the ball, but sending a sitter just wide right.
Gordon knew that the chance should have been a goal as he fell to the ground clutching his head in frustration after the miss.
In the 78th minute Colorado did get a goal back when Marlon Hairston got on the end of a long vertical ball and lifted his head to pick out Dominique Badji at the far post. Hairston’s cross was inch perfect as Stefan Frei was glued to his line and two diving Sounders failed to get a touch on the ball before it found Badji at the far post for an easy tap in.
Colorado pushed hard to find an equalizer but were frustrated by the superb play of Stefan Frei and in the 85th minute the draw was put away when Clint Dempsey scored his second of the match.
Dempsey collected a ball perfectly, pushing it away from Mike De Fonte who had stayed step for step with Deuce, and Dempsey used his second touch to fire a outstanding shot on Tim Howard’s goal. The shot rose and dipped over the diving form of Howard, who could do nothing but pick the ball out of the back of his net as Dempsey wheeled away to celebrate with his teammates.
At the final whistle Seattle had collected three vital points on the road while the Rapids are left searching for answers.
Pablo Mastroeni will have time to search for some answers as Colorado don’t play again for a full 18 days.