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 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 over the Rapids to the dismay of 17,432 spectators gathered for the team’s annual Fourth of July celebration.
Rapids coach Pablo Mastroeni elected to go with the same lineup that posted an easy win over Houston on Saturday, perhaps a calculated 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, and Dempsey punished 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 midfield 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.
“We need a little bit more energy, and the back four have made a couple of mistakes,” assistant coach Steve Cooke said at halftime.
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 Mikeil Williams at halftime, moving midfielder Dillon Serna back into Williams’ spot and sending in Caleb Calvert to man Serna’s left midfield spot.
The Rapids were hard-pressed to generate real scoring chances, finally creating some late. One came in the 74th minute when second-half sub Alan Gordon got free in the 6-yard box at the end of a cross by Calvert but couldn’t get a good foot on the shot, which went wide. Two minutes later, Gordon hit the crossbar from close range, and Dominique Badji’s follow-up shot forced a spectacular save by goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
Then in the 78 minute, left back Marlon Hairston made a penetrating run to the right wing and made a sharp cross, which Badji put away. Dempsey added his second goal in the 85th minute.