The beauty of rock bottom is that you never quite know that you've hit it until after you pull yourself out. For the Seattle Sounders, it seemed like that the two previous thrashings at the hands of the Colorado Rapids and the Vancouver Whitecaps might have been the lowest of the low. But after falling 1-0 to the Portland Timbers on Sunday night, three different things unfolded all at the same time: the Whitecaps are now the Cascadia Cup champions, the Timbers moved into first place in the MLS Western Conference and the Sounders hit a three-game losing skid for the first time since 2010. Pick your poison.
At first things didn't seem to be going so bad. The Sounders made a very aggressive push in the opening minutes of the game, but the impenetrable combination of the Donovan Ricketts' body and the crossbar would be the omen for the next 70 minutes. Clint Dempsey injured his shoulder early on and ran around like a lame duck before Sigi Schmid finally pulled his cord. The Timbers squeaked out a goal in the waning minutes of the first half, and after that it was all down hill. Eventually, the Sounders bottomed out when Will Johnson got Osvaldo Alonso hook, line and sinker in an altercation that left the Sounders down to 10 men with 15 minutes left. There wasn't much to be done, or could be done, after that.
Talk of the Supporters Shield is now officially muted. The Sounders have a game at Dallas on Saturday and are sitting beaten, battered and bruised. Nothing short of a win is needed for this team in the midst of one of the most memorable (for all the wrong reasons) winless streaks in franchise history. Let's put Sunday out of memory, climb back out of this dark hole and ride this sunny fall week into the MLS playoffs.
POR - Kalif Alhassan 45'
Seattle Sounders FC - Marcus Hahnemann, DeAndre Yedlin, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez, Mauro Rosales (David Estrada, 57'), Osvaldo Alonso, Adam Moffat, Alex Caskey (Andy Rose, 81'), Lamar Neagle, Clint Dempsey (Steve Zakuani, 77').
TOTAL SHOTS: 11 (4 players, 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (3 players, 1); FOULS: 14 (2 players, 3); OFFSIDE: 0; CORNER KICKS: 3 (Rosales, 2); SAVES: 2 (Hahnemann, 2).
Portland Timbers - Donovan Ricketts, Pa-Modou Kah, Michael Harrington, Mamadou Danso, Jack Jewsbury, Will Johnson, Kalif Alhassan (Sal Zizzo, 86'), Diego Chara, Jose Adolfo Valencia (Ben Zemanski, 67'), Darlington Nagbe, Maximiliano Urrut (Frederic Piquionne, 84').
TOTAL SHOTS: 15 (2 players, 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (3 players, 1); FOULS: 9 (Chara, 5); OFFSIDE: 1 (Urruti, 1); CORNER KICKS: 5 (Johnson, 4); SAVES: 3 (Ricketts, 2).
SEA - Adam Moffat (caution) 26'
POR - Kalif Alhassan (caution) 45'
SEA - Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (caution) 72'
SEA - Osvaldo Alonso (ejection) 74'
Referee: Hilario Grajeda
Referee's Assistants: Corey Rockwell; Greg Barkey
4th Official: Ricardo Salazar
Time of Game: 1:52
Weather: Clear and 58-degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial
Coach and player quotes:
Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid
Thoughts on the match...
I thought we didn't deserve to lose this game at all and we deserved to come away at least with a tie. The early foul on [Clint] Dempsey with [Diego] Chara fouls him, and he ends up with an AC joint sprain/dislocation that he tried to play on and play through it. Chara commits I think four fouls in the first half and never gets carded; I think that was a key turning point in the game and obviously look at the time that Dempsey got fouled... that crap's gotta stop. Referees got to protect him and they don't. It doesn't matter if a foul is early in the game or late in the game. The first time we committed a hard foul was immediately a yellow card on [Adam] Moffat, so I think that set a tone for the game as well. So obviously in the second half I think it got a little more physical because we realized that they weren't going to call stuff, so we talked about how we needed to be more physical, which we did, I thought, in the second half. Overall, I thought the game was, at the very worst, uneven."
On Alonso's red card...
"I couldn't see exactly. The linesman said that Ozzy [Alonso] caught him with an elbow or threw an elbow in his face. And all I can tell you is, whenever things happen, Will Johnson always seems to be at the other end of things. I don't know what he says or what he does to instigate things, but obviously Ozzy has to control his behavior, but sometimes it's tough in the heat of the battle to do that but he needs to do better. He's a veteran player, he needs to do better."
On the decision to play Marcus Hahnemann...
"We just felt with Michael [Gspurning] it was just a situation that sometimes you just got to step back and view it from the outside. I thought Marcus did well, I didn't think Marcus had a lot to do. I can't remember a real difficult save that he had to make over the 90 minutes. The goal we weren't tight to guys at the top of the 18 and the ball slipped in. But outside of that, I didn't think Marcus had anything to do."
On losing their third straight match...
"Right now I think we're a little bit snake bit. I think tonight again, like I said, the ball that [Adam] Moffat plays across that Dempsey heads off the post, there were scrambles that we had in the first half and Lamar Neagle's header that [Donovan] Ricketts gets his hand on and also touches off the post as it goes by. I think there were just other scrambles in the box that we were around it and we were close to it, but right now nothing's falling for us. We seem to be a little bit snake bit. For sure, the last two games, if we were to play with the effort that we had tonight we wouldn't be in this position right now. But I'm proud of the effort that we showed tonight."
On whether the game is a game to build off of...
"It's a game we have to build off of. Over 90 minutes when you look at chances created, I thought we created the better chances, but we showed character and determination and even with 10 men we still created the chance to tie the game. That's something we have to build upon."
On losing a Cascadia Cup match...
"We're disappointed for our fans that we weren't able to bring that home. But we didn't lose the Cascadia Cup tonight we lost it on Wednesday."
On the decision to sub out Clint Dempsey in the second half...
"He was trying his best but he was carrying his shoulder. He couldn't go into challenges and tackles, he couldn't run normally, all those things affected him."
Sounders FC midfielder Osvaldo Alonso
On the team's overall performance...
"I think we played good. We got chances, unfortunately we didn't score but, you know, it's all good. We got to move forward and look forward to the next game."
On receiving a red card in the second half...
"Getting a red card and getting my team to have a man down is always tough to play with, with ten men. You know, it is what it is. We got to, like I said, look forward and look forward to Dallas and play to win."
Sounders FC midfielder Alex Caskey
On the ankle injury impacting his performance...
"I don't think so, I mean, I'm as close to 100% as I ought to be, so it felt good to get back and just happy to be out there."
On being back on the field...
"I don't think there was one specific instance, but more just doing things: cutting, especially striking balls on the right foot which was probably the thing that was most painful. Being able to do those completely comfortably was really tough for me."
On rebounding from the loss...
"I think so. And Sigi [Schmid] said after the game was the one thing we can't fault is our effort, everyone gave a lot and I thought the second half especially we had a lot of good chances to even it up, especially against a good team on the road, so I think it's a positive moving forward and maybe a blessing in disguise kind of, for us moving forward for these last two games."
Sounders FC goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann
On the team's overall performance...
"Our last two games obviously we hadn't maybe had as much heart as we wanted, we kind of huffed and puffed, for a little bit in the games and it wasn't quite there today. I thought, you know, we battled all the way to the very last minute with ten men and hit the bar twice. With a little more luck, we could have taken the lead in the game. You know, obviously frustrating especially at the end of the game when they put the standings up on the scoreboard and see Portland goes in front of us. A lot of fans came down here and we disappointed in ourselves and everyone's gutted with the result. Sigi [Schmid] commented on our work rate, which we put in to the very end."
On Kalif Alhassan's goal in the first half...
"They hit a cross in, and I always take first couple steps to see if I can come get it, try to take as much pressure off my defense as I can, and it was just too low, it had to come through about three or four guys and so I got back in position and unlucky for us it goes right to their guy and he smashes it in the corner. Super frustrating, and they got through once on the break just before that and Ozzy [Alonso] is tracking back and he took a really big touch so I think that this is my chance so I gone out and slid and made him take that touch around me and I was able to block enough of the goal and Ozzy is there to clear the danger. We worked really well together and it's just disappointing to go down one-nil obviously but we're in the game until the end and [Steve] Zakuani comes on and he hasn't played a lot recently, he's had that injury, really unlucky for him and his deflection hits the crossbar as well. We could've easily snuck a point out of it and it would've been great, but we were just a little bit unlucky today."
On the team being "snake bit"...
"Yeah, I don't know. You look at [the shot] that hits the crossbar and it goes out you think yeah, our luck's against us. But the only way you can change your luck is through hard work, which is what we did tonight. That's how I've done it throughout my career, is you work your ass off through training every day and you become lucky. Not because you're lucky, but because of the hard work you put in. And that's what we did today and what we need to keep doing and tough games like this is what's going to happen in the playoffs. So it's a pretty good test for us and we easily could've come on top today and it's a bit unfortunate that we didn't."
On what went positively in the match...
"This is not an easy place to come play. Obviously we're disappointed with the result but the fight we showed all the way to the last minute and it was great team spirit and I think we can build on that, for sure."