Two-goal leads can be tricky things in soccer.
Just ask the U.S. national team. For that matter, ask the Seattle Sounders, who gave up a two-goal lead in their previous home game.
On Sunday, the lesson seemed learned as Sounders FC turned a two-goal lead into a 3-0 win over the Colorado Rapids before a franchise-record crowd of 32,526 at Qwest Field.
“I thought we managed the game well once we had the two-goal lead,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “We knocked the ball around; we made them chase it a little bit. They lost a little bit of interest at that time, and I thought we did a much better job in the last 20 minutes.”
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The three-goal result matched the Sounders’ biggest margin of victory. It was their first result decided by more than a single goal since April. And it gave Seattle (6-3-7, 25 points) a bit of breathing room over Colorado (5-3-6, 21) in the MLS Western Conference standings.
“It’s a good win for us,” Schmid said. “We talked all week about we want to win season series against teams. So, this wins our season series with Colorado, which is important in case we’re tied with them at the end of the year. And now we’ve got eight points in our last four games, which is two points a game, which is also a good thing.”
Seattle’s goals had the starting forwards’ fingerprints all over them: two goals and an assist by Nate Jaqua, one goal and two assists by Fredy Montero.
The first came in the 23rd minute as Freddie Ljungberg put a corner kick onto the head of Jaqua. Running onto the ball, Jaqua guided it down to Montero who finished – his fourth straight game with a goal.
The Rapids lost a chance to get even 10 minutes later, after Seattle midfielder Osvaldo Alonso was whistled for a handball in the penalty area.
Omar Cummings bounced his penalty kick off the right post. Cummings also botched a chance in the closing minutes, again facing Kasey Keller one-on-one and this time launching the ball over the crossbar.
But while Colorado was squandering its chances, Seattle was converting.
The next came in the 48th minute, when Montero fought off a Rapids defender and slipped the ball to Jaqua, who beat Colorado keeper Matt Pickens to the far side.
That combination was repeated in the 68th minute, when Sebastien Le Toux rolled the ball through the top of the penalty area, where Montero gave it the softest of touches on to Jaqua, who sent home the final score.
“I think in just this last month (my teamwork with Montero has) gotten a lot better,” Jaqua said. “Those two assists he had to me were great; and I knocked one on to him. That’s what you want: the two forwards working together, creating and combining and scoring.”
Then it was up to the defenders to make the lead stand up, and this time they did. It was Seattle’s first shutout in league play since a 2-0 win over San Jose on April 25.
“Until Cummings had that chance at the end, they really didn’t have any clear looks,” Keller said. “There were a few kind of dangerous situations, of course: They’re pushing guys forward. But when they were pushing guys forward, we hit them on the counter for the third. … We were a little more patient, we dropped into good spots to defend, and when they pushed their guys forward and we won the ball we hit them on the counter. I thought that was a very professional performance.”
Both teams played without key personnel. An ankle injury sidelined Seattle midfielder Steve Zakuani, and Alonso went out in the 39th minute with an abductor strain.
Colorado was without top goal-scorer Conor Casey, who was with the U.S. national team Sunday in its 3-2 loss to Brazil in the Confederations Cup final.
The Sounders now take a break from league play until July 11, when league-leading Houston visits.
However, Seattle will travel to Portland for a third-round U.S. Open Cup match against the USL Timbers on Wednesday.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808