The Seattle Sounders began their week with a free-flowing and high-scoring victory, but ended it with a very different kind of challenge.
The Sounders managed to take that one too, making a lone goal from Clint Dempsey stand up for a 1-0 win over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
“Every game is a little bit different — takes on a different personality,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “We knew that they were going to be somewhat cautious in the way they played. They tried to slow the game down for sure, make it difficult for us to get forward. ... I’m proud of the fact it was victory that we had to ground out.”
The only goal came in the 52nd minute, when Marco Pappa launched a corner kick into the box, and Dempsey volleyed it into the back of the net.
It was Dempsey’s team-high 11th goal of the season.
“Great ball in from Pappa,” he said. “I just tried to make sure that I had good connection on it, and tried to keep it low. It was able to go in.”
The game will be Pappa’s last with the Sounders for a couple of weeks as he will now join the Guatemala national team at the Central American Cup, which will run from Wednesday through Sept. 13 at various U.S. locations.
“It’s always special (when) they think about me,” Pappa said. “But for sure before that I was thinking of Sounders. ... Now for me, I’ll miss the next couple of games (while) with Guatemala hoping we can get our goal over there and then come back.”
Pappa’s departure will assure at least one lineup change Wednesday when the Sounders resume MLS regular season play at Chivas USA. But Saturday marked the first time this season that Schmid wrote out a lineup card identical to the one he had used the game before.
That earlier game was the 4-2 win at Portland last Sunday. And even though Schmid used the same lineup, he knew they would have to play a different kind of game.
The Rapids arrived with a five-game losing streak, having given up 15 goals along that way. So, Schmid anticipated that they would play conservatively at Seattle, and that’s largely what happened. The Sounders and Rapids combined for 22 shots, just one more than the Timbers alone had taken six days earlier.
However, for all the cautiousness of the Rapids’ game plan, they made one dramatic move that even Schmid admits he hadn’t seen coming: starting Joe Nasco in goal for the first appearance of his MLS career.
Nasco is a 30-year-old rookie who walked away from the game in 2010 to become a full-time deputy sheriff in Calhoun, Georgia. He returned through pick-up games, then with second-division Atlanta, and finally with the Rapids.
“The keeper switch surprised us a little bit,” Schmid said. “The last time we saw him was when we played against him when he was in Atlanta in the Open Cup. So at least some guys knew who he was and were familiar with him.”
Nasco had started for the Silverbacks in the Sounders’ 5-1 win in that 2012 meeting. Current Sounders Osvaldo Alonso and Andy Rose were among those who scored on him that day.
In his MLS debut, Nasco faced 12 shots and saved five of the six that were put on goal.
"I think he was very good,” Colorado coach Pablo Mastroeni said. “The same qualities I put him in for is what we saw today. We saw leadership from the back and multiple crosses. He was a very vocal player and played well."
Still, the result marked a club-record-tying sixth straight loss for Colorado (8-12-6). The Rapids also remain winless (0-8-1) at CenturyLink Field.
Meanwhile, Seattle (15-7-3) remains atop MLS and have won back-to-back games for the first time since early June.