The Seattle Sounders relapsed Sunday in losing to the New England Revolution 5-0. We have gotten very used to a single narrative here in the Emerald City: Sounders go down a goal, and, by playing beautiful, attacking soccer, rally for the win. Unfortunately yesterday was a different story, one that is all too familiar to Sounders fans. Last year Seattle started most games strong, and if they couldn’t translate their fast start into a goal, they usually got sloppy, gave up a goal, and eventually fell out of the game. This was the first game this season I had flashbacks to 2013. But no, this was most definitely the new-look Sounders falling prey to bad, old habits. The only thing missing at Gillete Stadium was a pouty EJ shaking his head and barking at his teammates. It was déjà vu all over again for the Sounders.
I’d like to write yesterday off as a hiccup, just a poor day at the office, but then I have flashbacks to last year’s tailspin. The Revs gave Sounders fans a horrible reminder of the fact that Seattle, though talented and successful yadda yadda, are guilty of the occasional train wreck of a game. To name the more infamous: the 4-0 drubbing by the Galaxy in 2010, last year’s routs, 5-1 against Colorado and 4-1 against Vancouver. I think most of us Sounders fans have some October 2013 PTSD, when we lost four straight at an aggregate score of 12-2. Hopefully the Sounders have banked enough character and self-confidence through their six-game unbeaten streak to not allow this rout to affect them too much. One bad game shouldn’t shake our faith, especially after the run we’ve enjoyed.
Besides, this game had loss written all over it: the short week, the travel, looking ahead to the USMNT roster. I hate to admit that I predicted a loss, (maybe I should keep my opinions to myself), but I wasn’t surprised by the result, just the score. In the end though, a loss is a loss. 5-0 doesn’t cost you more than 1-0 (unless you start looking ahead to playoff tiebreakers and the importance of goal differential, but let’s not get ahead ourselves). There were a lot of mitigating factors to this loss:
A) It was to an Eastern Conference opponent. We lost the opportunity to pad our Shield lead, but we didn’t give any points to Western Conference rivals. Oddly, we have only lost to the East this year (TFC and Columbus).
B) Hopefully this butt-kicking wakes us up. If we want to win a championship, this team NEEDS to commit to defense and cut out the mental errors. The Sounders are proud professionals. Hopefully this taste lingers and they swear to avoid it for the rest of the season. If this loss results in such an attitude adjustment, it will have been worth it.
C) For all the hand wringing, we have 15 points in our last 6. Stellar.
What I can’t believe is that Seattle was held scoreless for the first time all season. A team with Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Lamar Neagle, and Kenny Cooper did not get a single ball past Bobby Shuttleworth?!? The Sounders had two left feet on the sleek turf of Gillette Stadium, especially Obafemi Martins. I really feel he had an off day. After superlative games against Dallas and Philly, it seemed every touch of his was off. You’d think if any team would be comfortable as the visitor at a football stadium with turf, it’d be the Sounders. And Dempsey barely had touches in the second half. What black magic was that?
New England seemed to have drunk a gallon (or 80) of Felix Felicis, the lucky juice from Harry Potter. Every touch was perfect, every shot a goal. The Revs made their chances count. They countered and scored with aplomb. Seattle was very dangerous in the first half, but they didn’t convert a single chance. Seattle had zero goals on twenty shots, while New England had four goals on sixteen shots. If we had their 25% conversion rate, we would have won 5-4 (oh the tyranny of maths). The Sounders are determined to play the game their way: pretty, cheeky and fast. This could very well be our Achilles heel, especially if we continue to bail on defense, communication and maintaining the shape.
Coach Sigi Schmid is going to be pissed. As a coach he needs to play this right, walk a fine line between discipline, dressing down, nurturing and cheerleading. This is a sensitive moment, a milestone of the season. We are about to lose Dempsey, Brad Evans and, maybe, DeAndre Yedlin (I am prepping a separate post for him this week) for 4-7 games. Now the ones who’re left behind need to rally and remember what makes the Sounders the Sounders. All that flair over the last six weeks was nice, but Seattle is about hustle and grit. We need to get back to playing team defense. Sounders chase loose balls, Sounders win duels. Sounders win. Let’s remember that.
Ok. Exhale. Let this stew and don’t forget it. Move on boys and let’s get another win streak started.