The Seattle Sounders certainly love keeping their matches interesting. Two weeks ago, Fredy Montero scored in the 92nd minute to give the team a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire. While this season's Open Cup semi-final found the Sounders cruising to victory against Chivas USA, last year's required a last-minute goal from Nate Jaqua to force extra time.
Seattle emphasizes its love for drama with tales of streaks and statistics: Nate Jaqua has scored in every Sounders Open Cup game in which he's played since the team joined the MLS. Seattle is flying high on a seven-game unbeaten streak. The club has never lost a match in which Steve Zakuani scored.
Alas, those last two statements no longer stand after this week's match against the New England Revolution. The Sounders lost 3-1 to the Revs, reminding supporters that with this team, the drama often works against them.
This years' squad is a team that enjoys a good meltdown. Ok, to be fair, they probably don't actually enjoy it. In fact, their facial expressions seem to indicate that losing a match is not a lot of fun. The trouble with this team is that when something happens on the field that they believe to be unfair, the players fall to pieces.
Seattle's worst loss of the year happened against the LA Galaxy, a match now infamous due to the fact that the team's ownership elected to refund ticket holders after the 4-0 home defeat. In that match, Montero headed the ball to Brad Evans' feet, with Evans standing in front of an open net-but the whistle blew for offside, Seattle disagreed, and the Sounders never managed to get back in the match. A misplay by Kasey Keller, normally such a stalwart for the team, lead to the first Galaxy goal. Osvaldo Alonso left the field at the half with a quad strain, further adding to the frustration, and the Galaxy went on to score their last three goals within fifteen minutes.
Sound familiar, Sounders fans? Feels a lot like Saturday's match, in which the Revs found the net three times in eleven minutes to clinch the game. But that match also felt a lot like the match against the Philadelphia Union. Seattle took the lead at PPL Park before a penalty (which many felt was soft) conversion gave the Union an equalizer. Just four minutes later, Montero was brought down in the box and Pat Noonan stepped up to the spot. Noonan sent forth one of the worst penalty shots in all of soccer history, which was easily saved by Chris Seitz. While Keller continued to come up with some great saves, the rest of the squad lost their concentration, and two goals within five minutes saw the Union get the win in their first game at their new stadium.
The Sounders allow themselves to be easily rattled. Perhaps part of that is due to the fact that they are young, and find themselves easily shaken. In Saturday's match, the issue was a slap to Patrick Ianni's neck, a foul which went unpunished. Although Revs fans tell me that Ianni first stepped on Shalrie Johnson's foot, that's not the issue here. The issue is that the Sounders felt that they'd been wronged, and Montero showed it by hip-checking a defender into the side wall. He was shown a yellow, adding to the wrongs Seattle felt were against them, and soon the Revs had scored three in eleven minutes.
But don't lose hope just yet, Sounders fans. After the loss to the Galaxy, the Sounders beat the Red Bulls 1-0. After the loss to the Union, they put away Portland in the Open Cup (although the penalty shootout was terrifying). Even more reassuring was the play of the Sounders against FC Dallas in July. Seattle lost Miguel Montaño in the 56th minute, when the young Columbian retaliated against a high boot by Brek Shea by glancing a blow off the back of Shea's head, leaving the Sounders down a man for over thirty minutes. Seattle managed to keep their composure, and although they were left chasing the game, they made no silly mistakes and allowed only an excellent goal from David Ferreira in the 87th minute, keeping the game at a draw, earning a valuable point, and snapping their three-game losing streak.
The Sounders are set to face Real Salt Lake on Thursday night at Qwest Field. RSL are one of the best teams in the league and have a near-lock on the playoffs. What Seattle must remember is that they are one of the most talented teams in MLS, but if they want to see the playoffs this season, they can't let mistakes rattle their play, but instead use the drama to their advantage.