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Sounders got better than they deserved

Robbie Findley gets free for a header. Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.rslsoapbox.com/">RSL Soapbox</a>.
Robbie Findley gets free for a header. Photo courtesy of RSL Soapbox.

I know Saturday's draw feels like a loss. It should, and not just because the Sounders gave up the equalizer in the 94th minute.

I can't blame anyone for feeling as though we should have won that game. Not only did the equalizer come heart-breakingly late, but it was also the product of several bad decisions, not the least of which was Kasey Keller seeming to make the very un-savvy veteran move of literally giving away a corner. (If you can handle it, watch the final five minutes of the game. Until the goal, there's nothing happening that suggests urgency on either side. It really looked like both sides were just waiting for the whistle.) 

Still, still, still, I will argue that this was the worst game the Rave Green have played this year. If it seemed like they got roundly outplayed, nothing other than the score will convince you otherwise.

Sometimes, especially in soccer, statistics paint a fake picture. Unbalanced sheets are often the result of differing strategies and not reflective of actual play.

This was not one of those games.

The scoreboard may have said the Sounders led for about 63 minutes of the game and never trailed, but can you tell me, without looking, how many shots RSL keeper Nick Rimando had to stop? Can you tell me how many shots Seattle even got off? Do you remember any instances of either of those things? How about telling me a point in the game you felt we dominated possession?

Sure, you may have been lulled into the false security of feeling -- as I was -- that three points were all but had. I doubt you felt it was a result of dictating pace or momentum.

A quick glance at the score sheet will tell you why you probably don't remember many offensive highlights. Two shots: Zakuani's goal and one by Fredy Montero that resulted in Rimando's only save way back in the 20th minute. (Looking at replays, I'm still unconvinced of the own-goal, but that's how it reads in the record books for now.)

Even more, you'll notice that the Sounders -- who were among the best at creating chances in the first two weeks -- were limited to two corners, while surrendering 12 (coincidentally the same number that set a franchise record for them last week).

RSL fired off nine shots, and forced Keller to make three saves -- including one stop of a potential one-on-one with a streaking Kyle Beckerman and a brilliant foot save on another breakaway -- and seemed to dominate play in a way not that dissimilar from the way Seattle did against New York.

Defensively, I don't know that this was a particularly awful effort. There were some awful lapses, though, that seem rather inexcusable.

I'm willing to give Zakuani a bit of a pass on the first goal -- after watching the play several times I really don't think there was much he could have done to stop the one-touch pass that led to the goal.

Keller's decision to grab a harmless cross and give away a corner, though, was confusing. One of several things appears to have happened: Either the ball was off the on-ball defender, Alonso (but there's no signal from the assistant referee to indicate that), Keller thought it was off Alonso and was trying to keep the ball in play, or the referee made a mistake in awarding the corner. I've watched this play probably 15 times and still can't definitively figure out what happened there. Either way, I really wish Keller had let the ball go as there was no one really challenging him from RSL. In his defense, if the ball was not off Alonso, it should have been a goal kick as Keller was clearly already beyond the goal line when he grabbed the ball.

The goal itself was frustrating, too. Just the fact that this is the second goal on a corner in two games after not allowing any last year, should be a serious cause for concern. On this particular one, Alvaro Saborio was able to get free and get a clean header that gave Keller no chance. If not for some fortunate bounces, the Sounders could have very easily conceded another goal off a corner kick, this one in the 15th minute.

There were also many more turnovers in the defense end that may not have led to goals, but certainly kept the Sounders from generating much momentum.

That those turnovers did not lead to goals was largely a credit to Keller, who bailed out his defense on several occasions -- two of which I already mentioned. 

Offensively, as Dave already mentioned, the forwards and mids just didn't seem to have any rhythm. Whether it was Ljungberg making questionable decisions to pass or shoot, Noonan failing to hook up with Montero or Zakuani on several occasions or Evans flubbing a great chance off a free kick from Ljungberg, the Sounders just didn't generate the pressure for which they're known.

If there was a positive to take out of the weekend (beyond actually scoring), it's that the MLS will probably be as wide open as it was last season. Only one team has three wins in three weeks (Los Angeles) and only one other has a clean sheet (Kansas City). New York and Houston lost this week, while Columbus also had to settle for a tie, and only four teams have more points than the Sounders. Despite a rough start, Seattle has not lost any significant ground.   

Yes, it's a frustrating loss. We should also recognize that our side was roundly outplayed.

Luckily, it's a long season. And don't forget, we still have this guy to look forward to.

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