Rapids commit two key fouls in Western Conference Championship first-leg loss to Sounders

The Colorado Rapids fell to the Seattle Sounders 2-1 in the first leg of the Western Conference Championship Tuesday night. They’ll return home to Denver and either need to win by two goals, or one goal and then prevail in penalty kicks.

Axel Sjoberg. Colorado Rapids v Philadelphia Union. May 28, 2016, Dick's Sporting Goods Park. (Jessica Taves/For Denverite)sports; denver rapids; soccer; dicks sporting goods park; commerce city; jessica taves; denverite; denver; colorado;
Axel Sjoberg. Colorado Rapids v Philadelphia Union. May 28, 2016, Dick's Sporting Goods Park. (Jessica Taves/For Denverite) sports; denver rapids; soccer; dicks sporting goods park; commerce city; jessica taves; denverite; denver; colorado;
Axel Sjoberg and the Rapids will need a win Sunday to keep their season alive. (Jessica Taves/For Denverite)

The Colorado Rapids fell to the Seattle Sounders 2-1 in the first leg of the Western Conference Championship Tuesday night. They’ll return home to Denver will need continued great defense to win the series, holding the Sounders scoreless and scoring at least a goal themselves. Because of the away goals rule, a 2-1 margin would send the series into penalty kicks.

Sound familiar?

The Rapids were up against a similar scenario against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Nov. 6. They won that series on penalty kicks. Now they’ll have to win at home again if they hope to reach the MLS Cup.

Two key fouls in Tuesday night’s game could make doing so difficult. In the 61st minute, Sounders midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro baited Rapids left back Marc Burch into a costly foul. Lodeiro was dribbling the ball away from the goal and poked it several feet away from danger.

As Lodeiro accelerated away, Burch clipped the Uruguayan midfielder’s ankle, forcing him to fall to the ground. A penalty kick was called, and Lodeiro buried it to put the Sounders ahead 1-0.

The goal was Lodeiro’s fourth of the playoffs. He was a problem all night for Colorado, firing off three shots on target and five total.

Nicolas Lodeiro's shot chart. (Courtesy of MLS.com)
Nicolas Lodeiro’s shot chart. (Courtesy of MLSSoccer.com)

Six minutes after Lodeiro’s goal, Rapids midfielder Sam Cronin received a yellow card for an errant tackle. He won’t play in the second leg because of yellow card accumulation.

Zac MacMath played a solid game with Tim Howard sidelined, except for one major gaffe. Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan unleashed a fairly harmless ball on the ground just outside the box in the 19th minute. But MacMath reacted to it late and tipped the shot off the post. The Sounders’ Jordan Morris was waiting, and he poked it in.

The Rapids scored their lone goal of the game in the 13th minute. Kevin Doyle got some help — first from Schelzen Gashi, who’s beautiful dummy put him in prime position, then from a Sounders defender, who deflected his shot.

Colorado heads into the second leg down 2-1 in aggregate. It needs a victory — and potentially a victory with some caveats — at home , where it’s undefeated this season. Howard won’t play. Neither will Cronin.

Pablo Mastroeni likes to say his team is fearless. We’ll see if they can keep this run alive Sunday.

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Christian Clark

Author: Christian Clark

Christian Clark covers sports. He's worked for outlets that include the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Oklahoman, Columbia Missourian and Dave Campbell's Texas Football magazine. He likes music and Mexican food. Lots and lots of Mexican food.