SEATTLE - JUNE 26: Alvaro Fernandez #15 (L) of the Seattle Sounders FC celebrates with Mauro Rosales #10 after scoring the second goal against the New England Revolution at CenturyLink Field on June 26, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Let's get this out of the way first: The Seattle Sounders are moving on to the CONCACAF Champions League group stage after beating San Francisco FC 2-0 in overtime. It was not a pretty game, possibly the worst-officiated game I have ever seen in my life, but the Sounders survived. That's the big takeaway.
Aside from that, though, I'm not quite sure how I feel. I have never felt so unsatisfied after a victory -- an important victory at that -- as I did after this one. Conversely, I'm not sure I ever cheered as loudly and emotionally as I did after Nate Jaqua scored the eventual game winner in the first half of the overtime period.
The main reason for my frustrations -- and I really hate to say this -- was the refereeing. It was awful, just downright awful. The San Francisco players were rewarded for falling over at the slightest touch repeatedly, while the yellow card distribution seemed haphazard at best. Almost every card that was issued -- on both sides -- were on relatively innocuous situations, while numerous hard fouls, especially when the Sounders were on the attack, went virtually unpunished.
There was only five minutes of stoppage time added onto the end of regulation despite the fact that two San Francisco players had to be stretchered off the field and several other spent far too long rolling around on the turf. And then, shockingly, zero time was added onto the game at end of the overtime period. To call the officiating bizzarre is a gross understatement.
Yet, here we are. The Sounder have, indeed, qualified for the CCL group stage where they'll should be considered favorites to advance, along with reigning tournament champions Monterrey.
Let there be no doubt that they made it much harder on themselves than they needed to, though, bad refereeing or not. The Sounders outshot their opponents by the staggering count of 35-8, putting 14 of those shots on target. Just about every attacking player missed at least one good scoring chance. Alvaro Fernandez missed at least two open headers before finally converting on one in the 41st minute.
But it's probably better to just move on from this one, rather than linger on the details. The Sounders are alive. That's what's important.