There is no real way to sugar-coat it. The Seattle Sounders are struggling.
The Sounders offense on Saturday was again a no-show. And without three starters, Seattle wasn’t able to counter the one goal that Real Salt Lake was able to muster at CenturyLink Field.
Sebastian Saucedo launched a shot that found the upper right corner in the 61st minute to fuel Real Salt Lake’s 1-0 victory over the Sounders.
“This is a tough time. There’s only one way we can go, which is up,” Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said. “We have to put the work in and come ready to work on Tuesday and make sure they’re prepared not just physically, but mentally to correct some of the things we show them on tape and highlight some of the positive things they did accomplish.”
The Sounders (2-6-2) nearly tied it three minutes after Saucedo’s goal. Magnus Wolff Eikrem sent a free kick from the right side into the box. It was headed toward Lamar Neagle, and his header from the top of the 6-yard box was about to dip under the crossbar when RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando reached up to slap it over the top.
That helped Rimando preserve his third shutout of the year.
This one came against a Seattle team that has been blanked seven times in 10 games and has scored a league-low seven goals. The Sounders were missing three starters – midfielders Nicolas Lodeiro and Gustav Svensson, and defender Roman Torres – who are in Uruguay, Sweden, and Panama, respectively, in hopes of making their World Cup teams.
Seattle had two other near-misses in the first half, during which it outshot RSL 5-0 even though the visitors had 58 percent of the possession.
In the 24th minute, Eikrem let one rip from 14 yards in front in the right side of the penalty area. Rimando dove on it near the right post. In the 25th, Nouhou took the ball into the box, and from just outside the 6 sent a shot toward the near post that Rimando reacted to just in time to deflect over the goal line.
Saucedo got the chance for his first goal of the season when Danilo Acosta passed the ball across the field to him on the attacking left side. Saucedo took it toward the top of the penalty area and sent a rising shot at the far post. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei leaped across the goalmouth and got his left hand on the ball, but not enough to keep it out of the net.
“It was a lot of mixed emotions – I didn’t know how to celebrate,” said Saucedo, who signed as a homegrown player in 2014, but then spent the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons on loan to the USL’s Real Monarchs and to Mexican side Veracruz. “It’s an incredible feeling for myself, and obviously for my family. We were in Philadelphia last week (a 4-1 loss) and my shots were all over the crossbar. This one was on target and finally went in.
“That’s what I want is to score goals. I’m hoping to be on the right path to do that.”
Salt Lake coach Mike Petke said Saucedo scores plenty during practice – many of them just like the one he had Saturday.
“He hits that five or six times a week during the run of play,” Petke said. “It’s about time he did it in a game, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. He has that quality, and the confidence he showed in front of this many people in a stadium like this – I’m proud of him.”
It was a rare victory on turf for Salt Lake (5-6-1), which is 10-32-18 on artificial surfaces in franchise history. It also was the first road win of the season after going 0-5-1 and getting outscored 17-4 in its previous six away games.
“I think we took much more of a defensive approach,” Petke said. “Not that we don’t do that on a weekly basis, but the players this week seemed to buy into it.”