SEATTLE, WA - JULY 07: Mauro Rosales #10 and Eddie Johnson #7 of the Seattle Sounders battle Marvell Wynne #22 of the Colorado Rapids at CenturyLink Field on July 7, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Eddie Johnson and Osvaldo Alonso give the Sounders a huge win over the Colorado Rapids, putting the Sounders into the all-important third spot in the Western Conference.
The Seattle Sounders picked up a huge win at Dicks Sporting Goods Park in Colorado thanks to goals from Eddie Johnson and Osvaldo Alonso as well as a determined defensive effort to close out the game. It was far from the prettiest win Seattle will ever have, but pretty wins in Colorado are difficult to come by. What's important is that the Sounders have kept pace with Real Salt Lake and moved ahead of the Vancouver Whitecaps, with Seattle now sitting in third place in the Western Conference with two games in hand over the teams ahead and immediately behind.
The Sounders wasted little time getting to work, with Johnson putting his side ahead in the 2nd minute with a header from a Mauro Rosales corner. The lead wouldn't last long, with Drew Moor finding himself completely unmarked to hammer Brian Mullan's cross past Michael Gspurning. The Sounders shrugged off the response fairly quickly and continued to have the better of the play for the rest of the half, but they weren't able to add to their lead before the teams went to the locker room. After the break the Rapids began to assert themselves a bit, largely shutting down the Sounders attack and controlling a bit more of the possession. From there things settled a bit, with the Rapids testing Seattle on the counter and the Sounders finding themselves unable to break down the home side's back line.
Right around the time the game started to look for all the world like a draw, the Sounders put together one of their best passing sequences of the game; Mauro Rosales won the possession thanks to an errant backpass before charging into the area and sliding the ball wide to Eddie Johnson. Johnson made a clever turn when his path to goal was cut off and slid the ball to Alex Caskey in space at the top of the area. Caskey then made a clever fake that drew the Rapids defender towards goal before passing the ball back to a now unmarked Johnson who then made an inch perfect cross to Osvaldo Alonso. Alonso hammered the ball on the volley, first into the turf and then past a frozen Matt Pickens.
Seattle's taking the lead forced the Rapids to play with a greater sense of urgency, and with players beginning to fade thanks to the altitude the Sounders bunkered down and tried to hang on. There were a few close calls, but in the end they accomplished their goal. There's little doubt that Gspurning's return to action was a huge boost, as Conor Casey was a major threat as the game wore along and the big keeper was called into action on several occasions. Still, credit must be given to Seattle's defense, which weather what ended up being a pretty serious storm late on in the going.
Seattle is now unbeaten in five MLS games (seven in all competitions) and winners of two of their last three. Though this team still doesn't seem to be playing to its full potential, It's clear that they've recovered from whatever it was that caused their May and June doldrums. Seattle will now take on Caledonia in CONCACAF Champions League play on Thursday with the red-hot LA Galaxy coming to town on Sunday night. This is the beginning of an incredibly important stretch of games for the Sounders, with the Galaxy, the US Open Cup final in Kansas City, a trip to San Jose, and a home game against the Whitecaps all on the docket for August. By the time September rolls around, the Sounders could have played themselves into or out of a playoff bye. Given what's ahead, tonight's win was a pretty decent way for the Sounders to prepare themselves.