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Seattle Sounders unable to break down 10-man Columbus Crew

May 5, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Columbus Crew midfielder Cristian Martinez (left) holds off Seattle Sounders FC defender Nouhou (right) during the first half at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

SEATTLE – The Columbus Crew held on to maintain a 0-0 draw against the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field Saturday, despite playing 75 minutes with 10 men. Crew SC’s Pedro Santos was sent off in the early stages of the match for a high challenge on Seattle’s Alex Roldan, but he Sounders could not capitalize on the advantage and finished with one shot on goal

“We’re disappointed in the result,” Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said. “It’s not good enough. I’ll make sure that we watch this tape and work on attacking movements to break that final line and be a little more creative. We moved the ball too slow. The few times they did get into our end of the field and we won possession of the ball, we need to sprint. We need to get down the field before they get a chance to get bunkered in.”

Santos received his marching orders in the 15th minute after a high kick struck the face of Roldan. Referee Hilario Grajeda showed Santos the red card after consulting VAR.

From there, Seattle was unable to apply pressure to Columbus in the attacking third. The Sounders swung in 45 crosses, but only connected 10 of them. Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter inserted centerback Alex Crognale in the 31st minute and kept five men in his back line to jam up the defensive third while the Sounders looked for a seam.

Schmetzer felt his team was too stationary and too cautious when dealing with the Crew.

“Sometimes when you go down to 10 men you play with less pressure, because everyone expects you to lose,” Schmetzer said. “For the team with 11, it becomes more challenging; you try to force things in or they panic a little bit. I’m not sure our club made some good decisions in that final third. What I mean by that is movement to create the space.”

Columbus had several counterattack opportunities that threatened to topple Seattle. One in the 22nd minute saw Gyasi Zardes break through Seattle’s back line and go one-on-one with Stefan Frei, but the striker’s shot rolled wide of the right post.

Seattle’s best chance came in the 73rd minute when Will Bruin sprinted to a long through ball and cut it back  into the penalty area, where it landed at the foot of Clint Dempsey.

Dempsey’s shot flew right at Columbus keeper Zack Steffen, however, and the ball was cleared away.

 

Seattle held 64.6 percent of possession and outshot Columbus 17-5, but only finished with one shot on target to the Crew’s two on-frame attempts. Defensively, the Crew made 39 clearances to stave off the Sounders.

While Steffen only needed to make one save, the keeper also collected six crosses and dominated aerial balls in the penalty area, making sure nothing fell to the feet of Seattle’s attackers.

Schmetzer used all of his substitutions to try and increase pressure on Columbus. Rookie speedster Handwalla Bwana entered at halftime for Chad Marshall, while Magnus Wolff Eikrem replaced Alex Roldan in the 63rd minute. Finally, Schmetzer pulled left back Nouhou for Henry Wingo, the winger’s second appearance of the season.

Schmetzer explained the substitutions as trying to change things up to find a weak spot in Columbus’ defense.

“We pulled Marshall at halftime to bring Handwalla on and put him out wide to see if he couldn’t break guys down one on one,” Schmetzer said. “Handwalla anad Nouhou on that side are two young, fast, aggressive guys. With the next set, we tried to go three at the back and push another guy up and swap Magnus for Alex. When Henry came on, we just played three at the back.

“It was a combination of trying to play in the wide channels to stretch them a little wider, to create some gaps for Clint or Bruin or Magnus. But we’ve got to credit the Crew, they did a good job of shutting us down.”

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