It rains a great deal in Seattle, but only the Red Bulls ended up wet this time around.
Sounders sub Roger Levesque earned a second-half brace to answer an own goal by Zach Scott as Seattle laid claim to a 4-2 victory over a depleted New York side at the newly-renamed CenturyLink Field on Thursday. A faulty back line and static Greg Sutton enabled Seattle midfielders Eric Friberg and Osvaldo Alonso to convert two early set pieces into goals, while Dane Richards declared his Red Bulls return from the Gold Cup by scoring his third goal of the season.
The loss leaves New York tied with the Philadelphia Union atop the Eastern Conference at 23 points apiece, with Philly (6-4-5) coming in one win better than the Red Bulls (5-3-8).
Play of the Game: Montero's Bump on Sutton. Seattle found itself with a corner kick mere moments after Friberg opened scoring. Mauro Rosales directed a ball in the box to the right side of the spot, which enticed Sutton to charge through the sea of bodies crowding the area and towards the ball's landing spot.
Sutton, however, forgot to watch his step as he bumped into Freddy Montero en route to the ball. The bump rattled the Canadian 'keeper, who expected a foul. Instead of picking up the ball to close out the angles, Sutton stayed in place as Alonso swung a low shot from the right of the arc through the crowded penalty area and past a helpless Sutton.
While New York's set piece inability to defend against set pieces was front and center, Sutton's shortcomings were equally on display. He displayed limited range and found himself constantly struggling to get in the right position to block the Seattle attack. He struggled to handle a pass from his own defender that he lost moments later to Levesque, who scrambled past him for his second goal of the game.
Mama said there'd be games like this, but one wonders if Red Bulls coach Hans Backe will finally call upon Bouna Coundoul to give Sutton a much-needed break.
Stuck in the Middle. While the numbers reflect a 63%-to-37% edge in possession for the Red Bulls, that gap is largely attributed to New York finding itself with the ball in its own defensive end. The Seattle midfield of Alonso, Friberg, Rosales, and Alonso frustrated the patchwork Red Bulls attack all evening by cutting off passing lanes and preventing anyone from providing service to Richards and Dwayne De Rosario up top. New York found itself with only three of its 13 shots on target, and Seattle did not allow any of those shots to morph into a more potent attack.
Backing Down. With the Gold Cup final involving the United States and Mexico on Saturday, the Red Bulls will need to fare without Rafael Marquez and Tim Ream for a bit longer.
Whether they'll make it that far is another question. Stephen Keel and Carlos Mendes filled in for the Gold Cup duo again at Seattle, and again found themselves constantly rattled by the potent attack and the antagonistic atmosphere. Keel struggled to mark his man on the early Alonso and Friberg goals, and keeps showing up in the wrong spot when Seattle was at its best. Roy Miller also found himself getting beat with regularity out on the left flank, but what can he do when there's no one capable of getting his back?
What Went Right. Excluded from the deficiencies found in the back line and midfield is right back Jan Gunnar Solli, who reminded onlookers of his speed and creativity pushing the ball up a right flank that Seattle defended with spare parts.
Solli's night culminated with his work to obtain New York's second goal of the night. He picked up a long lob pass from De Rosario and rushed it clear down the right flank to the end line. After executing a nutmeg through defender Leonardo Gonzalez before taking a strong shot from the right of the penalty area that deflected off Scott in front of the six-yard-box and redirected into the net for the equalizer.
New York couldn't make Solli's strike stand up, but the Norwegian raised his game in a match where so many fell to lower levels.
Minus Three. That's the penalty differential between the 11 fouls called on New York versus eight for Seattle. Both sides finished level with yellow cards at three apiece. In an interesting note, Michael Kennedy served as the match referee on Thursday, four days after clarifying the red card assessed to Thierry Henry by Ricardo Salazar on behalf of U.S. Soccer. Coincidence?
There is no rest for the Red Bulls as they leave the left coast to face the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park for a matinee on Sunday (2 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes).