TUKWILA, Wash. — For the first time this season, the Seattle Sounders Women started on the back foot Wednesday night. They couldn’t recover from conceding two early goals, losing 2-0 to the Pali Blues at Starfire Stadium.
Pali got the first shot of the game through Danielle Hubka, who sent a shot wide of Katie Hultin’s goal in the first minute. However, the next two Blues shots would be more accurate.
In the 5th minute, Lynn Williams slotted a shot past the Sounders goalkeeper from about 20 yards out, capping a Pali counterattack to take an early 1-0 lead. Just a minute later, Nikki Washington chipped a bouncing ball in the box past an onrushing Hultin to double the advantage.
“Like in any sport, when you get down early, you have to expend a lot of energy to try to get a goal back,” Sounders head coach Michelle French said after the game. “Giving up two goals in the first 10 minutes is never something that’s easy to come back from.”
Not only was it the first time the Sounders trailed in a game this season, it was also the first time Seattle had given up more than one goal in a game.
None of Seattle’s Olympic-team players were in the lineup, having just arrived back from a national team camp in Sweden the previous night. Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe and Syndey Leroux will be available for Seattle’s next game on Sunday against the Santa Clarita Blue Heat.
“We missed them, but at the same time, we’ve been playing without them, so we need to figure out who we are without them,” French said. “When we have them, it’s great, but if not, at the end of the day, we need to win without them.”
The team’s lack of experience without its best players showed in the first half, as Pali dominated the majority of the first 45 minutes. At halftime, the Southern California club had 10 shots to the Sounders’ zero.
At halftime, French switched her team from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 formation. At times, it almost looked like a 3-4-3, with defenders playing a more attack-minded game, pushing into the midfield.
The changes paid off to some extent, as the Sounders Women took control of the game in the second half. However, they still could not break through the Pali Blues defense to get on the scoreboard.
“I think part of that was a product of the formation, but also just kind of having a different mentality,” French said. “I think the players finally made a decision that we’re going to get after it a little bit more.”
Seattle’s best chance came off a Veronica Perez shot from outside the 18-yard box. Her knuckling shot was right at Blues goalkeeper Anna Piccarelli, who has given up just two goals in eight games.
With the win and their sixth shutout of the season, Pali (8-0-0, 24 pts.) solidified its spot at the top of the W-League Western Conference standings. The Sounders (5-1-1, 16 pts.) fell for the first time this season, and they missed a good opportunity to gain some ground on the conference leaders.
“We’ll definitely take a look at the film. We’ll kind of figure out what personnel is going to work best,” French said. “We obviously have the national team players back for Sunday’s game, so that will give us a whole other element, so we’ll rest the players that are our starters, stick the national team players in there and hopefully, we can get the three points.”
Seattle returns to action Sunday, hosting the Santa Clarita Blue Heat at 7 p.m. ET.
Pali travels to Victoria, B.C. on Friday, where it will play the Highlanders in the second game of a three-game road trip. The Blues return home after a Sunday matchup with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Seattle 0 0 — 0
Pali Blues 2 0 — 2
First half — 1, Pali, Williams 5 (Eddy), 5th minute. 2, Pali, Washington 4 (Andrews), 6th minute. Second half — None.
Shots —Pali Blues 14 (Williams 4), Seattle 5 (Patterson 2). Saves — Seattle 4 (Hultin 4), Pali Blues 3 (Piccarelli 3). Fouls — Seattle 11 (Beahan 3), Pali Blues 8 (Shaner 2). Corner kicks — Seattle 5, Pali Blues 1. Offsides — Seattle 1 (Patterson 1), Pali Blues 1 (Bogus 1).
Yellow cards — Seattle, Beahan, 32nd.
Referee — Levi Rippy. Assistant referees — Timon Berry, Matthew Wells.
A — 3,500.
Seattle — Katie Hultin; Stephanie Cox, Kate Deines, Brooke Gilbert (Victoria Frederick, 45th), Annie Sittauer; Lindsay Elston (Kara Kuttler, 45th), Veronica Perez, Julia Roberts, Keelin Winters; Allie Beahan, Lyndsey Patterson (Megan Manthey, 79th).
Pali Blues — Anna Piccarelli; Elizabeth Eddy, Christie Shaner, Sasha Andrews, Michelle Pao; Servet Unzular, Sara Huffman, Danielle Hubka (Cammi Levin, 65th); Liz Bogus, Nikki Washington (Mariah Nogueira, 72nd), Lynn Williams (Anisa Guajardo, 89th).
Liviu Bird covers the Seattle Sounders Women for Equalizer Soccer. Follow him on Twitter at @liviubird.
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