Perched atop Major League Soccer is a Colorado Rapids team that doesn’t wow anyone with poetic play, but sure does win a lot.
Scraping along near the bottom of the Western Conference is a Seattle Sounders team that is heavier on back-heel passes than goals or wins.
The teams met for the second time this season on Saturday, and the Rapids concluded their regular-season sweep with a 1-0 win on the Sounders’ home turf.
When Colorado coach Pablo Mastroeni was delicately asked about this after the match, he pragmatically pointed to the results.
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“We’re up in some metrics as far as goals and goal differential, or else we wouldn’t be in the position that we’re in,” he said. “We’ve taken care of home this year, and done really good job of that. Then to come on the road — I think we’ve gotten eight points (actually, seven) in six games. Winning is winning. That’s not a bad win. This is not a beauty contest.”
The numbers back the coach. Colorado is 6-0-0 at home and 2-2-3 away. That adds up not only to the best record in the league, but a 2.08 points-per-game average that would have won every Supporters’ Shield since 1998.
The Rapids’ plus-seven goals differential is topped only by the Los Angeles Galaxy. But while the glamorous Galaxy piles up more goals than anyone else, the Rapids are the league’s best at preventing them: an MLS low of nine goals allowed in 13 games.
That defensive efficiency clashed ominously with the Sounders, who have scored 10 goals in 13 games. The Galaxy, FC Dallas and the New York Red Bulls have more than twice as many goals, while only the lowly Chicago Fire has fewer.
For better and for worse, the Sounders (4-6-1) top seven other teams when it comes to producing shots and 10 others in putting shots on goal. The better means there are chances. The worse means a lack of finishing. Combined, those numbers produce not only an unfamiliar number of losses, and particularly frustrating losses at that.
And if there was a prime locker-room message from the Sounders’ leadership on Saturday, it was that the team must not give in to those frustrations.
From captain Brad Evans: “Right now it seems one mistake, one goal allows, and we are still losing games. So that’s the narrative right now, and it’s going to be tough to break. … At the same time, we gotta buckle down, gotta come in, we gotta work, and we gotta right the ship.”
From veteran defender Zach Scott: “All you can do at this point is hope that there’s no heads being bowed, and get back at it in practice and turn it around. We have to.”
That doesn’t project as easily done.
Coach Sigi Schmid has stressed that he’s happy with his team’s effort and with much of its play. The team has spent much of the past weeks of practice working on its finishing. Most potential attackers have been given game minutes.
With the obvious buttons being pushed, there seems little to do for now but to keep pushing — especially with the next transfer window more than a month away.
The club might have gotten a bit of a break when its goals leader Jordan Morris (four goals) was left off of the U.S. men’s national team roster for next month’s Copa America.
But Clint Dempsey — tied with Chad Marshall as the team’s No. 2 scorers (two goals apiece) — was named and will miss the Sounders next two matches: this coming Saturday at New England and June 1 at D.C. United.