Bobby Shuttleworth had to watch the ball sail between his legs and into his goal.

And that was pretty evocative of the disparity between the Seattle Sounders FC and Minnesota United on Saturday

United lost 4-0 to the defending Major League Soccer champions at TCF Bank Stadium in front of an announced 22,649 lower-bowl sellout crowd, the third consecutive home crowd of over 20,000. It took Seattle (9-7-7) eight seasons to win the Cup after joining MLS in 2009 as an expansion franchise, and the Loons (6-13-4), in their inaugural season, saw very clearly how far they have still to go.

“At the end of the day, we got beat by a very quality team. Don’t kid ourselves here,” United coach Adrian Heath said. “They’ve got internationals at nearly every position on the field. That’s taken them however many years continually improving and improving to put it together. And we have to be realistic of that. I don’t know what they paid for their front four. … They’re a quality side. They won the whole thing last year. Let’s put it in perspective.

“We’ve been able to compete tonight. We just haven’t taken our opportunities when they came along.”

The U.S. national team’s joint all-time leading scorer in forward Clint Dempsey was involved in three of Seattle’s four scores. His assist fed forward Will Bruin for a ninth-minute goal before his header off a corner in the 18th minute doubled the score line.

Forward Jordan Morris’ goal in the 71st minute really put the match out of reach for the Loons, and then Dempsey notched his second goal in the 73rd minute.

“It’s beyond frustrating where you’re consistently doing the right things throughout the game and then maybe just one lapse of concentration or one little slip-up or one bounce goes their way and bang, they finish their chances,” United center back Michael Boxall said. “I mean, that’s what good teams do.”

That’s quite the contrast from United, which is still working on “cohesiveness” and “how to deal with all situations,” according to Boxall.

“With new teams, it’s almost like you find new ways to lose or new ways to give up the game,” Boxall said.

The Loons did have several scoring opportunities, especially early in the second half, but couldn’t put any shots past Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei. He made back-to-back acrobatic saves in the second half, doing the splits to deny United forward Abu Danladi in the 54th minute and then just tipping midfielder Sam Nicholson’s distance strike over the crossbar.

“The ball that he saved with his foot, which, I mean, I don’t think I could have hit it any other way,” said Danladi, who also had two goals called offside in the match. “He was able to save it. That tells how good of a goalkeeper he is.

“But still, even good goalkeepers get beat.”

Despite the result, Heath said he came out of the match feeling proud of his players for their efforts.

“It’s strange emotions after the game because I thought between both boxes, we’ve actually played some really good football,” Heath said. “And at 2-nil even at halftime, I thought if we scored the next goal, we would have an opportunity to maybe keep ourselves in the game. We also knew that every time that they broke on the counterattack with the pace they’ve got … that we were going to leave ourselves susceptible.”