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Sounders Edge Rapids, Pick Up A Big Conference Win

In many ways, the Colorado Rapids had their way with the Seattle Sounders this afternoon; the visitors had far more of the possession and largely shut down a hampered Sounders attack, allowing the home side 18 shots but harassing them enough that only 5 of them threatened the keeper. Colorado more than held their own in midfield and put Michael Gspurning under severe pressure for several heavy spells. But in the end, a goal from the unlikeliest source powered the Sounders to a gritty 1-0 win, giving Seattle 10 points on the season and putting them into 3rd pplace with a game in hand over the San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake.

Despite receiving a rude welcome that persisted throughout the game and inspiring the biggest cheers of the day when his apparent first-half goal was called back for offside and he received an 87th minute booking for a cynical challenge on Osvaldo Alonso, Brian Mullan's first appearance at CenturyLink Field since the injury to Steve Zakuani came off largely without incident. Though the boos rang throughout the stadium with every touch up until the final whistle, Mullan was far from a focal point on the afternoon; Leo Gonzalez kept the Rapids winger in his back pocket for the vast majority of the afternoon, the aforementioned canceled goal the one notable exception. Where the Rapids did manage to shine was in central midfield, with Jaime Castrillon and Jeff Larentowicz playing the possession game to near perfection and preventing Seattle from building the sustained pressure that makes them such a dangerous attacking side.

Not helping the Sounders cause was their wastefulness in the final third, with Eddie Johnson, David Estrada, Fredy Montero and Alex Caskey all doing far less with gilt-edged chances than would have been expected. Caskey atoned for any and all sins, however, with an inch-perfect corner that Zack Scott headed past Matt Pickens for the game's only goal in the 65th minute. Despite any specific shortcomings, the Sounders attack did look quite dangerous for large stretches; Eddie Johnson showed some very nice flashes of vision and positional awareness that have been sorely lacking in his prior appearances in Rave Green, while Fredy Montero dealt admirably with his standing as the focal point of the Rapids defensive efforts, soaking up a great deal of physical play and managing to keep his composure and spring several dangerous moves. In addition to his set-piece delivery, Caskey looked far from out of place on the wing, making few if any egregious errors and looking very much as though he belonged on the pitch. If any of the front four had an off day it was likely David Estrada, but his performance was far from poor and he was pressed into service at an unfamiliar position on short notice; his failure to shine is largely understandable.

It wasn't the most comfortable or convincing win, but with Mauro Rosales, Alvaro Fernandez and Adam Johansson all sidelined it was certainly impressive. This is a much improved Rapids side that were more than willing to bring the game to Seattle, and without some of their biggest guns the Sounders adjusted to the circumstances, soaked up the pressure and found a way to win. Jeff Parke and Patrick Ianni put in excellent performances, while Osvaldo Alonso and Brad Evans largely abandoned their typical attacking responsibilities at times in order to provide the shield for Seattle's defense. It was a solid, gritty, all-around performance for the Sounders, the likes of which will be greatly appreciated once the team is back to full health and firing on all cylinders.