Only in American soccer. Better yet, only in MLS.
No, screw it. I'm going big.
Only with the Seattle Sounders can you witness the single greatest performance ever presented and the single worst display of ineptitude in two back-to-back games.
A mere two weeks ago, or as I should point out our most recent match, we were on top of the world. A 6-2 whopping against the Columbus Crew, in what was probably the most fun match I've ever witnessed. We were one win away from eclipsing the top in the chase for the shield. We had just put in a string of dominant performances in the Open Cup and international level. But more importantly, we were showing maturity, discipline, and the chance that we might live up to our potential.
One spare weekend can apparently throw that away.
Today's loss was everything I hate about the Sounders.
The Sounders simply gave up, and everything we tried so hard to forget came back disguised in a warm and sunny afternoon. The lack of focus, determination, and consistency returned as the main stars on the field. Though it wasn't the worst, I've very rarely seen a team collectively play as lazily as we did.
And the bizarre referee decisions just made it worse. Two red cards dished out early in the game, one to each side, seemed to give both teams an OK to stand around and not play aggressively. Because when you go down a man on the road and you are up 1-0, why should you need to attack? That was RSL's approach for almost the entire game. And the Sounders? Well, to call that performance reflective would make a vanity mirror blush.
It doesn't stop there. Nick Rimando single-handedly got into the heads of the players and successfully messed up Osvaldo Alonso. I counted the seconds one time as he took a goal kick, a whopping 12 seconds. He took 16 goal kicks alone, totaling to 3 minutes wasted. He wasn't alone, as this was a common approach by the entire Salt Lake team from the beginning of the match. Needless to say, I think their strategy of mindgames worked.
Tactically, I could not comprehend what was happening on the field. The two early ejections were to defenders, so both teams ended up playing 3 back for most of the game, as far as I could tell. Sigi decided to respond by pairing Servando Carrasco with Osvaldo Alonso in the middle, which resulted in both players inadvertently trying to do the same exact job. This left a gaping hole where a playmaking maestro should have been. Sigi followed that up with possibly the worst combination of substitutions ever witnessed. He took off Alvaro Fernandez and Mike Fucito in favor of Lamar Neagle and Pat Noonan.
I don't care what planet you are on, or if the world is ending, or if the devil is holding kittens over the edge of a cliff. The only substitution I ever want to see involving Pat Noonan better be one where he is coming on for the other team. Nothing you can say or do will change how I feel. Putting him in at such a crucial moment was shameful, ludicrous, and made me rage a hundred million times.
Despite Sigi's attempts, his changes were mostly ineffectual. Alvaro Fernandez was doing fine before he was subbed off, and there was no indication that he couldn't continue to finish rest of the game other than to sate Sigi's need for tinkering. Lamar Neagle's introduction did add some spirit, but he couldn't do any better than Alvaro's darting runs on the left flank. Even more frustrating is that after Neagle had been introduced, he was swapped with Mauro Rosales so that he was moved over to the right flank. After 15 minutes of that not working, the two switched back into their normal positions. This made my head explode.
A ridiculous gaff by Kasey Keller. A missed penalty. A make-up call from a shoddy ref. An early injury to Erik Friberg. Laziness and whining from the players. Horrendous passing. Time wasting.
I could stop there. But oh, I'm not done raging.
Even the atmosphere was subdued and lazy. ECS was quieter than usual. Fans were visibly and audibly frustrated. Everyone just seemed tired.
Down 2-1 with 15 minutes to go, I saw numerous fans getting up and leaving. With the Supporter's Shield on the line and the team searching for points, there was no sense of urgency. The jumbotron blared a desperate plea for fans to give their full 90, but it was in vain. No matter how hard I tried and screamed, Pat Noonan tried harder to blow every chance we had.
In the end, we didn't deserve three points, let alone a single point. You might say I am overreacting to single result, or being ridiculous and unreasonable. But it's because I haven't lost sight of the bigger picture. Realistically, we just lost the Supporter's Shield, and the Sounders showed that despite recent form, we haven't completely changed from that immature team in 2007.
I am furious, but I am hopeless. We are still poised to do well in the CCL and Open Cup, and maybe even the play-offs. But I expected better and this game was a tremendous let down.