How thin were the Seattle Sounders at the start of their Wednesday match at Philadelphia?
Thin enough where three players were making their first MLS starts and one of those was making his MLS debut.
How desperate did the Sounders become by the end?
Desperate enough where central defender Chad Marshall was shifted up to forward.
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In the end, all that innovation and desperation wasn’t enough as the Sounders lost, 1-0, to the Union at PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania.
“With all the players that were missing, the difficult part is we also don’t have a chance to train,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “If we had the same kind of injuries and everything else but we had a chance to train for a week, things would be a little different. We were playing without a lot of important veteran players.”
Seattle (9-6-2) lost back-to-back games for the first time this season, and once again was without all three of its designated players — forwards Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins and midfielder Osvaldo Alonso — as well as No. 3 forward Chad Barrett.
Beyond the injuries and Dempsey’s suspension, there also was the need to rest some players in what was the Sounders’ fourth game in 12 days — especially with another match rushing up Sunday at Portland.
With all those subtractions, Schmid chose some unconventional additions. Left back Dylan Remick was the only usual starter along a back line that also included Oniel Fisher, Jimmy Ockford and Zach Scott. Ockford was making his MLS debut, while Fisher and midfielder Aaron Kovar got their first MLS starts.
“I thought they all did all right,” Schmid said. “I thought Oniel Fisher played well. … We weren’t sure if (Ockford) could play 90 minutes. … For sure, you put young players next to each other, there’s going to be growing pains.”
The duct tape held for 69 minutes until Union forward C.J. Sapong found enough space in front of the Seattle goal to head in a cross from Sheanon Williams.
Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei had saved a Maurice Edu penalty kick in the first half, but he had little chance on the header from Sapong, who tapped in his sixth goal of the season and fifth in his past six games for the Union (4-10-3).
“I was split between two guys,” Ockford said. “So I was kind of torn between the first guy that scored the goal and the guys behind me. He made a great run, so it was just unfortunate he got to it.”
Once down a goal, Schmid began pushing new buttons: Darwin Jones of Des Moines replaced Lamar Neagle of Federal Way in the 70th minute; Brazilian Thomas replaced Kovar in the 75th minute; and finally Marshall came in for Remick in the 81st minute. However, that wasn’t a straight defender-for-defender swap as Marshall headed for the top, where Schmid hoped his 6-foot-4 frame might allow him to head something in.
“Chad flicked on a few balls for us,” Schmid said. “He’s a target. But again, that’s not how we normally play; so again, not being able to train on any of that makes it difficult for the team. It’s so against our normal style.”
Nothing came from Marshall’s height, but something almost did from Jones’ speed in the closing minutes, as turned the corner inside the box but fired his shot into the side netting.
“Stefan Frei kept us in the game with the penalty kick save,” Schmid said. “I thought we did all right defensively. We were too loose on the goal, obviously. When we had some chances on the other end, the final passes, the final play, makes it difficult.”