The look of the Seattle Sounders’ lineup improved considerably Saturday, but the result on the scoreboard did not.
Clint Dempsey, Brad Evans and Stefan Frei all returned to the first 11, but the Sounders suffered their fourth consecutive loss, this one coming to Vancouver, 3-0, before a crowd of 53,125 at CenturyLink Field.
“It’s a disappointing game because we had different starters from the last game in there,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “I don’t think anybody in that locker room is pleased with that result. It’s disappointing because we felt we had a good week of practice even though Clint and Chad (Marshall) weren’t here the whole week. But it’s something that we need to do better.”
It was Dempsey’s first MLS start since June 13, Evans’ first since June 28, and Frei’s first since July 3.
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However, Dempsey and Marshall didn’t return to Seattle from the MLS All-Star Game until Friday, when they went through only light work. Dempsey left the locker room before the media was allowed in, but Schmid thought the lack of training time showed.
“Everybody thought, ‘OK everybody’s back, and it’s a snap of the fingers and it’s going to all happen again,’” he said. “That’s not the way it works. You’ve got to get guys back playing together back on the same page. (Erik) Friberg’s never played with Dempsey before. … Clint hasn’t played with Thomas. So there are still connections there that aren’t established yet.”
Any optimism inflated by the restored lineup was tested early as Pa-Modou Kah got to a deflected ball in front of goal and fired it in to put the Whitecaps ahead in the sixth minute.
Kah struck again early in the second half, redirecting a ball fired through the area by Cristian Techera.
Pedro Morales set the final score in the 75th minute, curling in a free kick from 25 yards.
“We just gave away too many silly free kicks around the box, and that one was in a nice sweet spot for him to take advantage and obviously he took advantage of it,” Frei said. “A centerback with two goals for them is the right spot at the right time. But still, we have to be in the right spot at the right time. You can’t always say it’s bad luck. We have to win those individual battles, we have to be sharp defensively on set pieces.”
It totaled to more than enough as the Sounders were shutout for the fourth consecutive game and a run of 362 scoreless minutes.
“The dam’s pretty tall right now, so it’s a little bit hard for us to break into it,” Schmid said. “Taking a goal early in the game — it was one of those where when a team is in a little bit of a rut and they take that early goal everybody’s head drops a little bit. ... We had more looks at goals, more shots than we’ve had in the previous few weeks. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t good enough.”
The loss dropped the Sounders below .500 at 10-11-2.
Vancouver moved to 12-8-3 in the MLS standings. The Whitecaps also passed the Sounders in the Cascadia Cup race where Vancouver is 2-1-2, Seattle 2-2-0 and Portland is 1-2-2.
After the match, the Whitecaps celebrated on the pitch with photographs and comments that some Sounders clearly resented and will likely remember Wednesday when the teams meet again in Vancouver as the teams open CONCACAF Champions League.
Seattle returns to MLS play Aug. 9 at Los Angeles.