Dempsey’s brace downs Rapids
SEATTLE 3, RAPIDS 1
COMMERCE CITY» The last time Rapids fans saw Clint Dempsey, he was letting it be known that he didn’t appreciate U.S. national team coach Bruce Arena’s decision to remove him from a World Cup qualifying game here in June against Trinidad and Tobago with a half-hour left in the match.
But the longtime Team USA star from Nacogdoches, Texas, left the field Tuesday with nothing but good feelings after scoring twice and assisting on Seattle’s other goal in a 3-1 win to the dismay of 17,432 spectators gathered for the team’s annual Fourth of July celebration.
“We just didn’t do a good enough job of winning the first long ball and winning seconds,” Rapids coach Pablo Mastroeni said. “That was their biggest threat. And the cover from the guys that weren’t challenging (the ball) wasn’t good enough at times, and we were a bit exposed. When you get in a game of this magnitude and you are behind, you start to feel your legs go a lot quicker. They did everything they could, given the situation that we were in.”
The “situation” was having to play a sixth game in 18 days. Yet Mastroeni elected to go with the same lineup that posted an easy win over Houston on Saturday, a risk given that the 11 were playing on only two days of rest. The Sounders clearly were the team with fresher legs and scored twice in the first half on plays that left dangerous Seattle strikers wide open.
Dempsey struck first after Eric Miller gave him entirely too much room in the penalty area in the sixth minute, Dempsey punishing him from 12 yards out for a 1-0 lead. To be fair, the midfielders in front of Miller left him in a tough spot, letting Dempsey run through the center of the field unmolested. But Miller was victimized again in the 30th minute, slipping to the turf as Dempsey played a ball to Will Bruin which Bruin put away from 7 yards out.
Mastroeni said the Seattle strikers were able to “get into the channels,” which was an understatement: They ran free through seams down the middle of the field. In an attempt to shore things up, Mastroeni removed left back Mekeil Williams at halftime, moving midfielder Dillon Serna back into Williams’ spot and sending in Caleb Calvert to man Serna’s left midfield spot.
Colorado halved Seattle’s lead in the 78th minute when Marlon Hairston made a perfect cross from the right wing which Dominique Badji put away. The Rapids thought they were still in it until Dempsey got free yet again and scored a fantastic goal in the 85th minute.
Now the Rapids don’t play until July 22 — a road game at Toronto — and won’t play at home again until Aug. 5.
Mastroeni hinted the Rapids will acquire two players during the international transfer window, which opens next week.
“It was one of those games, there was no flow to it — a lot of stopping and starting,” Badji said. “These games are going to happen. We just need to regroup, see who’s next, exploit their weaknesses and get some more wins.”