Life after Chris Pontius did not start well for D.C. United Saturday night as the Black-and-Red looked largely toothless in attack and committed several defensive lapses as Seattle rolled to a 3-0 victory at CenturyLink Field.
The loss, combined with other MLS results on Saturday, saw D.C. United drop out of the MLS wild card playoff places. However, the Black-and-Red have games in hand on their wild card competitors, as well as their Eastern Conference compatriots.
Coming out of the halftime break trailing 2-0, United saw very little of the ball in the first 15 minutes of the second half as the Sounders pressed forward looking for a third goal. They got what they were looking for on the hour mark when Mauro Rosales found some space along the right sideline and crossed to the left post, where Fredy Montero's header was blocked by Joe Willis. However, the rebound fell right to Alvaro Fernandez, who slammed the ball into the open net to record his second goal of the night.
With the game lost, D.C. United showed real attacking intent for the first time all night and had several opportunities to grab a consolation goal. Joseph Ngwenya forced a giveaway deep in Seattle's own end in the 72nd minute, but his shot was palmed away by Kasey Keller. Four minutes later, Andy Najar broke into the penalty area, but could only sting Keller's palms with the shot. In one of the more entertaining passages of play, Seattle almost went back up the other end and scored, but Joe Willis was alert to deny Lamar Neagle's attempt.
Michael Fucito and Alvaro Fernandez scored ten minutes apart late in the first half to put the Seattle Sounders on top of D.C. United 2-0 in the Pacific Northwest.
Fucito's 35th minute goal, his second of the season, was the result of a lightning-quick breakaway by the home side. Osvaldo Alonso headed down a bouncing ball in midfield to Brad Evans, who shrugged off a challenge from Clyde Simms and touched the ball over to Mauro Rosales. Rosales, in turn, let the ball run to Fucito, who turned Brandon McDonald brilliantly, raced into the penalty area, and slid the ball into the lower right corner of Joe Willis' net.
On the balance of play, Seattle deserved their lead, and the home side definitely had the batter of the first half opportunities. Fredy Montero had the first chance in the 6th minute, but could only head a James Riley cross high and wide from a tight angle under a challenge from Andy Najar. Four minutes before Fucito's goal, Alvaro Fernandez nearly redirected a cushion header from Tyson Wahl into the net, but failed to hit the target.
Seattle nearly doubled their lead just before the end of regular time in the first half when Montero ran onto a downfield punt from Kasey Keller, but dragged his shot wide of Willis' right post. Seconds later, the Sounders did double their lead when Ethan White's poor clearing header was tracked down by Rosales, who put Fernandez through on goal. The Uruguayan made no mistake, slipping the ball past Willis just before the whistle blew for halftime.
Ben Olsen has made three changes from the starting lineup that defeated Chivas USA 3-0 last Saturday night. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid (right hamstring strain) has failed a late fitness test, so rookie Joe Willis has been slotted in Hamid's usual starting place. Meanwhile, Austin da Luz has been handed his first ever start for United. He'll start on the left side of midfield in place of Santino Quaranta. Finally, Joseph Ngwenya has fully recovered from a concussion and will start up front for the first time since July 16. He'll take the place of the injured Chris Pontius.