SEATTLE - At halftime on Saturday, it looked like the Vancouver Whitecaps might get away with two positive results from a tight three-game, seven-day schedule.
But the Seattle Sounders got second-half goals from Fredy Montero and Eddie Johnson to claim a 2-0 win over the Whitecaps.
"I thought we were a little unfortunate not to get something out of the game because we had chances, at least a couple half-chances in the first half," head coach Martin Rennie said. "We needed to take one of those."
Before a ball was even kicked on Saturday, Vancouver (10-9-7) was dealt a blow that altered the course of the game when designated player and captain Barry Robson received a one-game suspension.
"He's been arguably our best player since he joined the club — he takes our set plays, he's our captain — so it was a big, big miss for us for sure," Rennie said.
Robson appeared to kick a ball at the assistant referee in Vancouver's 2-0 home loss to FC Dallas on Wednesday. Although the club didn't complain about the suspension, team officials were bothered by the way it was handled.
They were only made aware of the suspension the night before the game, a departure from the usual procedure, wherein teams have substantial notice.
"We're not at all complaining about the fact that he's got a suspension — we're concerned with the process," Whitecaps President Bob Lendarduzzi said before the game.
On the field, Vancouver struggled to make good on its goal-scoring opportunities without Robson, who has two goals in nine starts. Despite five attempts, the Whitecaps had no shots on target all game.
"We've got to take those chances because it's going to be tough to create so many chances on the road," said forward Darren Mattocks, who put one point-blank attempt wide.
The Sounders got their goals from Montero in the 64th minute and Eddie Johnson in the 87th.
Part of Vancouver's inability to score was due to Seattle's physical play. Mattocks' speed was causing his defenders trouble, so they began to take a more hands-on approach.
Mattocks suffered four fouls during the game, and his direct opponent, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, committed four and received a yellow card. Vancouver's Gershon Koffie received the only other booking in a match that included 31 fouls.
"I think it was part of their game plan. Obviously, they were playing really physical," Mattocks said.
Altercations bookended a physical affair in front of 55,718 fans at CenturyLink Field.
Just after kickoff, Johnson was involved in an altercation with Vancouver's Carlyle Mitchell that sent Mitchell to the ground. Replays showed Johnson striking Mitchell with his hand, although it was unclear whether it was intentional.
In the 90th minute, Whitecaps midfielder Gershon Koffie came in on a high tackle on Andy Rose, and Vancouver's Atiba Harris sent Hurtado to the ground.
In the end, Rennie refused to make excuses for his team's loss.
"I don't really think it was that physical," he said. "I think the referee did fine. I feel like there were a couple decisions that were big decisions that maybe were arguable, but I thought the referee did well, and it was a good game."
With the win, the Sounders (11-6-7) gained sole possession of third place in the MLS Western Conference.
Vancouver now has a week to recover for its next game, in Portland on Aug. 25 at 7:30 p.m.