Chivas USA and Sounders FC were paired for the second time in two weeks Saturday, and the specter of their first match loomed over the second.
After trying to outscore the Sounders in the first meeting, the Goats tried a more defensive strategy in the rematch. However, the result was only a more competitive loss as Seattle came from behind for a 2-1 win at CenturyLink Field.
“Each game takes on its own personality,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “Obviously, they played a lot more defensive here. ... They really did a (good) job of getting eight guys behind the ball. They bunkered in.”
There were other differences.
When the clubs met Aug. 25 in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson, Calif., the Sounders led wire to wire on the way to a 6-2 win. On Saturday, they came from behind.
In that earlier meeting, the hero was Fredy Montero, who scored three goals. On Saturday, Eddie Johnson scored two – setting the club’s single-season goals record along the way.
Schmid said he thought the earlier match loomed over this one in another way, too.
“I think sometimes when you have a win like we had down in L.A., you can pretty much stand on your head in the locker room before the game and the guys’ edge sometimes is off a little bit,” he said. “Obviously, we didn’t start off well.”
Chivas broke ahead in the eighth minute, when a string of passes ended with Nick LaBrocca beating Michael Gspurning from about 12 yards.
That was a bad sign for the Sounders, who came into the match 0-6-4 when conceding the first goal.
But this time, the Sounders battled back, starting in the 20th minute when Johnson headed home a Christian Tiffert free kick.
“Tiffert’s a great deliverer of the ball, and I was just trying to get on the end of it,” Johnson said. “We practice who’s running to the first post, second post, third post and set picks to each other and try to get between gaps (and) attack the ball. That was just a well-delivered ball.”
The clubs played without scoring for the next hour, although both had chances. Brad Evans hit a post for the Sounders. Tristan Bowen skimmed the crossbar for Chivas. Referee Kevin Stott overlooked what the Sounders believed was a handball in the box by Chivas’ Miller Bolanos.
“Chivas wanted to do counterattacks, and the first goal was a counterattack,” Tiffert said. “Then for 80 minutes, 85 minutes, they play defense. ... It’s not easy.”
Seattle’s game-winner came in the 89th minute when Johnson drove in another header, this time on a Montero cross.
“There was a pass forward from (Alex) Caskey to me,” Montero said. “I just wanted to get quickly to the line to make a good cross. It was good because Eddie was right in the right place, and he got a second goal and three points for us.”
The result was another body blow to the playoff hopes of Chivas (7-12-7), which remained eight points south of the fifth and final playoff spot in the West.
“Our backs are against the wall like a wounded animal, so we’re scrapping for anything right now,” said Chivas defender James Riley, a former Sounder. “We’re scrapping for playing time, for wins, for jobs next year. I thought we came out and competed. Obviously good teams sometimes find a way to win consistently, and they did that today with two great goals.”
Seattle (13-6-8) moved past Real Salt Lake and into second place in the West, six points behind league-leading San Jose.
The Sounders’ next game comes Saturday at Portland.
“We want to put ourselves in a position to win a Cascadia Cup, but also want to put ourselves in a position to solidify second place,” Schmid said. “We want to put ourselves in a position where if San Jose falters, we’re right there and they know it.”firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8808 blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt