Combine a heap of possession, a bunch of missed opportunities, toss in a handful of impressive saves and combine with a dash of bad luck and you have the recipe for the Seattle Sounders 1-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night. It wasn't an awful performance from the Sounders, but it definitely wasn't pretty.
Looking back on the game with a few hours of hindsight it's not so hard to see some glimmers of hope. It took some very impressive saves from Jon Busch to keep Fredy Montero off the scoreboard, but the Sounders were really their own worst enemy most of the night. The confident strikes of the first two games simply weren't there and it seemed like indecision and poor execution haunted them throughout.
Of course, it still probably should have been enough to pull out a point. Michael Gspurning had another solid game in goal and the defense was very good in the second half, especially. The difference in the game turned out to be a somewhat dubious penalty call that Steven Lenhart drew on Marc Burch.
There is plenty of room for debate about this one. On one hand, Burch definitely impeded Lenhart's path and did look like he may have stuck his leg out a bit. On the other, it was inconsequential to the play that was developing and Lenhart wasn't even making a move toward the goal. The validity of the call aside, Burch knows he let Lenhart get the best of him on the play and it was absolutely avoidable.
It's hard not to be frustrated by a game like this. The Sounders came into it riding high and poised to open their season with a 3-0-0 record, despite missing several key cogs. As it is, 2-1-0 is not so bad and certainly beats last year's 0-2-2 start. That's doubly true when you consider the near uniform struggles of teams expected to be at the top of the Western Conference.
The Sounders now face a rather large test on Saturday when they visit D.C. United. Mauro Rosales -- who really does make this offense move so much more smoothly -- will almost certainly be out. Christian Sivebaek filled in on Saturday and, at times, really shined. He also disappeared for large chunks and still seems to want to dribble more than he should. We're also learning just how helpful Brad Evans is to the central midfield, as Servando Carrasco wasn't bad, but also might just be too much like Osvaldo Alonso to effectively play alongside him.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC vs. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
MARCH 31, 2012 -- CenturyLink Field - Xbox Pitch - SEATTLE, WA. USA
Goals by Period
Seattle Sounders FC
San Jose Earthquakes
SJ - C. Wondolowski (penalty) 24'
Seattle Sounders FC: Michael Gspurning, Zach Scott, Patrick Ianni, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (Jeff Parke 46'), Marc Burch, Christian Sivebaek (Sammy Ochoa 62'), Osvaldo Alonso, Servando Carrasco (Alex Caskey 74'), Alvaro Fernandez, Fredy Montero, David Estrada.
Substitutes Not Used: Andrew Weber, Leo Gonzalez, Roger Levesque, Mike Seamon.
Shots: 18; Shots on Goal: 6; Fouls: 12; Offside: 0; Corner Kicks: 7; Saves: 4.
San Jose Earthquakes: Jon Busch, Steven Beitashour, Victor Bernardez, Justin Morrow, Ramiro Corrales (Jason Hernandez 46'), Sam Cronin, Rafael Baca, Marvin Chavez (Simon Dawkins 89'), Shea Salinas, Chris Wondolowski, Steven Lenhart (Alan Gordon 67').
Substitutes Not Used: David Bingham, Tressor Moreno, Ike Opara, Khari Stephenson.
Shots: 12; Shots on Goal: 5; Fouls: 15; Offside: 1; Corner Kicks: 1; Saves: 6.
SEA: O. Alonso 6' (Y)
SEA: C. Sivebaek 45' +2 (Y)
SJ: R. Baca 64' (Y)
SJ: S. Lenhart 64' (Y)
SEA: Z. Scott 79' (Y)
SJ: A. Gordon 81' (Y)
Referee: Mark Kadlecik
Referee's Assistants: Ian Anderson, James Conlee
4th Official: Ramon Hernandez
Attendance: 38,458 Time of Game: 1:56 Weather: 50 degrees and partly cloudy
All Statistics contained in the boxscore are unofficial.
Sigi Schmid - Sounders FC Head Coach
(On the result...) "Sometimes games go like that a little bit. I didn't think our first half was outstanding. I thought they were a little better than us in the first half. I didn't think, from my angle, that it was necessarily a PK. I thought it was sort of what they say in basketball when you initiate the contact kind of thing. I thought in the second half we were better. I thought we created more chances in the second half. [San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon] Busch comes up with a big save on that one shot and it just wouldn't fall for us today."
(On Jhon Kennedy Hurtado...) "He came in at halftime and said he felt a little sore, but felt he could go. So what the medical staff said was he should be able to go, but we should have somebody ready in case he feels that he can't go as he gets into the half. When he started jogging on the field for the second half he said he couldn't go at all. So it was difficult for Jeff Parke because he didn't really have an appropriate warm-up, but I thought he did all right. He came in and did all right."
(On how he thinks his team responded to the penalty kick goal...) "I think what resulted in the PK was us reacting to get a hit before the PK. There was contact made by I think [Steven] Lenhart before and so it was a little bit of, 'OK, let me show you. I can stand my ground, too.' But I thought our reaction - I don't know what you mean by reaction - but I thought our reaction was OK. We tried to come out and play soccer and score a goal. I thought we put pressure on them in the second half."
(On the number of fouls in the match tonight...) "When look at their two big forwards - Lenhart and [Alan] Gordon - they committed seven fouls between the two of them. That's a ton of fouls to commit out of that one position. But for the most part I thought we handled it fairly well. Obviously they got the better of us in that particular circumstance."
(On the play of Alex Caskey...) "I thought Alex did well. For his first game out there and he didn't show nerves. He was composed on the ball, sent over a good cross, connected and I thought he helped us create some pressure and increase the pressure we were putting on them."
(On the depth of the team...) "I think our depth is OK. When you're looking at it - [Christian] Sivebaek played instead of [Mauro] Rosales. Zach Scott playing instead of [Adam] Johansson and you've got [Carrasco] Servando playing instead of [Brad] Evans. Those three guys are very important to our possession game, but I thought we were OK. I didn't think it was a situation where the game was one-sided, or that they dominated the game over the 90 minutes. So I thought the guys did alright."
(On starting Christian Sivebaek over Roger Levesque in the midfield...) "Just we felt that Sivebaek could present more problems to [Ramiro] Corrales on the defensive end of the field. I thought early on in the game he definitely created some good situations for us. He's in and out of the game a little bit, so you have to deal with that as well as a team, but I thought offensively he created some good moments for us. He got in behind, got to the end-line, hit some good crosses and I just thought his one-on-one abilities would help us better than Roger's out there today."
(On the San Jose defense limiting Sounders FC chances...) "[Sam] Cronin played deep and sort of played in front of the back two and I thought their backs did a good job of marking up on them, too. But I thought it was more us not holding on to the ball and maybe that was a result of their pressure as well. We talked about it at halftime, we talked about being confident and just possessing the ball on their end of the field. I think there were certain players that had a lot of turnovers in the first half that you don't expect to have those turnovers. In the second half once that settled down I thought our possession was much better in their end of the field. Then all of the sudden you saw Fredy [Montero] and you saw [David] Estrada get into the game."
(On moving around David Estrada in the second half...) "It was just obviously they were going to pack the middle a little bit more as the game goes on and there was space out there. [Christian] Sivebaek had seen the ball quite a bit in the first half out there and so we knew [David] Estrada is fit enough to go 90 minutes so we moved him outside and told him to stay a little bit wider. So them pinching in a little bit and our right wing saw a lot of the ball in the first half as well."
(On what he said to the referees after the game...) "I just thanked him for the game and told him he needed to watch the replay of the PK."
(On if he thought there should have been a PK called when Estrada went down in the box...) "I heard Estrada slipped. I never saw the replay. The linesman on the side told me that Estrada slipped and that it wasn't a PK, so I said fair enough. But then why call that one in the first half? So it's the same thing. It's the same thing how we picked up a couple of yellow cards on tackles and there were tackles that went the other way, like Zach Scott's tackle. I was upset with that because they gave Zach a yellow card. I wasn't upset - it was a yellow card. I think Zach's tackle was a yellow card tackle, but I was upset because I think there had been comparable tackles earlier that hadn't been yellow carded."
(On how the team responded in the second half...) "It was OK. We always believe we're going to score. We're a team that's confident in our offensive abilities and tonight I thought we created chances. If we hadn't created anything in the second half I'd be a lot more worried, or a lot more disappointed, but we just talked about keeping better possession in their half of the field, making sure that we did a better job of making them defend. We felt that we turned the ball over so quickly in the first half that that allowed them to counter and their guys never really had to recover and defend. So when they lost the ball we would lose the ball too quickly and they didn't have to chase back and they would gain good positions to attack us again. So we said lets hold on to the ball, let's make them defend and I thought that turned the game for us in the second half."
(On Steven Lenhart's play committing fouls...) "That's Steven's game. That's what he does all the time. He does that all the time and then afterwards he apologizes. That's his thing."
Marc Burch - Sounders FC Defender
(On the foul leading to the penalty shot...) "It was my fault, 100 percent. I went up for a header and he gave me a little elbow in the back so when he tried to run around to the far post I just tried to jump in his path and he sold it pretty well. I don't think I swung, I don't think I kicked him, and I don't think that I tried to take him down on purpose, but he sold it pretty well."
(On if the foul that led to the penalty shot was warranted...) "I think that the foul before that was warranted. I think that me going up in the air and getting pushed in the back on a scoring play is a little worse than him running by me and me jumping in his path. I don't know and I will have to watch the replay, because maybe it looked a lot worse. He sells fouls pretty well and I am sure he sold that one pretty well too. Sometimes the ref buys into it and sometimes he doesn't."
(On if it is frustrating to play against a player who looks for opportunities to dive...) "Yeah it is. I mean it is 100 percent my fault, because I should be bigger and better than that, but he is the type of player that is looking for that opportunity the entire season, and he got one. I should be better than that. I mean I should know better. I have seen the guy enough and it is the same tricks every single game he plays. I don't think it is the best soccer, but it's the way it is."
(On the better play of the Sounders in the second half...) "I think it is how we should have been playing the entire game. The first half was pretty bad from all of us, especially me. The second half we started clicking and moving the ball. We were pressuring them when we needed pressure, working the ball, and playing the long ones when we needed to. When we got behind Sammy [Ochoa] came in and did a great job and Freddy [Montero] played great in the second half."
Michael Gspurning - Sounders FC Goalkeeper
(On his opportunity to score a goal today...) " I have not scored one, but years ago in Austria I made an assist. We didn't have anything to lose, and I know America is a country of statistics, but I don't care if it was me who scored I just wanted us to tie the game. It is great in a situation when the other defense can't handle it, but I think in this situation Sammy [Ochoa] might have been in a better position and I took the ball. Everyone was just trying to put the ball in the net."
(On the play of the Sounder defense...) " I have to say that I still needed a shower after the game so I think [San Jose] was dangerous. It was not that we dominated the whole game, but the second half was much better of course and we created a lot of chances. I thought the other keeper played very well and today the ball just didn't want to go in."
(On bouncing back from this loss...) "Of course we all wanted to start the season 3-0, but we have already shown one time this season that we can bounce back from a tough loss. We have to keep working and keep our heads up high. It is just one loss and it is important that we get good games in the future."
Alex Caskey - Sounders FC Midfielder
(On the game...) "I came in around the 75th minute and was just trying to have an impact, just trying to get that goal back. It was just unfortunate we couldn't get one."
(On making his Sounders FC debut...) "I was extremely excited. It's what I've worked so hard throughout the year to get to. I'll just keep working and hopefully with more and more time I'll get another one."
(On San Jose...) "After the first goal they were dropping in pretty deep, just trying to hold off the lead, especially on the road...this was a good result for them."
Christian Sivebaek - Sounders FC Midfielder
(On the game...) "A little bit of a difficult game. We started all right. We kept possession well and we were good at spreading out the balls wide, but then after the goal we struggled a little bit I think. We had a difficult time getting back into the game and from then on we just tried to score that goal to tie everything up, but we didn't have the luck today unfortunately."
(On the difficulty to score...) "We started to lose the ball every time we came in to the last part of the field on their half. We didn't keep possession as well as we did the first 20 minutes, so I think that's why we struggled in the last part of the first half. I think we were better in the second half. We were better at picking balls up and getting the ball into the penalty area, still we didn't have the luck. Sometimes it's like that, but we just need to keep our heads up and we'll get three points against D.C. next week."
Frank Yallop - San Jose Earthquakes Head Coach
(On the result...) "Well obviously a great result for our team and very happy with the performance of our players. We deserved the points."
(On Seattle...) "They'll put you under pressure here, they're a good team. It's a difficult place to play and get a result so we feel that we that we've played a good game. The game plan was to get at them as much as we could when they were pushing forward and I feel that we did a good job at that. Just needed that second goal. We had chances and we didn't which made it hairy at the end but I'm very happy with the points."
(On playing in Seattle...) "They're a quality team no matter who's on the field. They've got quite a few injuries at the moment, they're a very good team. We have to be the best at the back. The whole team deserves credit for the win because they all put the work in for the club."
(On last time the teams met...) "The other time we won 1-0, Seattle should have won that game. They outplayed us in every department and we came out with a 1-0 victory. I think tonight we deserved a victory. It's not often you can say that - Seattle had its moments but we had some good moments too. I think it was well earned, especially here."
(On team mentality...) "We have a different team and mentality to our unit. Even if Seattle were to score I feel that we would have gotten a second one, I think the team is mentally stronger this year. Seattle has their moments and are a good team, I'm just proud that we shore the game out at the end and put it all on the line with good head shots and blocking shots."
(On three shutouts in four games...) "We said we needed to get better at seeing games out and defending as a unit. I think Victor Bernardez has made a big difference at the back line. Jon Busch, you can go on and on but the team is determined not to give goals up... I think the only goal we've given up was a penalty kick. It's early, four games, we have a long way to go but the signs are good. If we can get up to a good start and maintain it we can play with anyone and that's the thing for me. Seattle is going to be right up there to the end and I think we went toe-to-toe with them tonight."
(On Forward Steven Lenhart's yellow card...) "All of our players play with aggression and patience that I ask them to do... but he's a fair player. He doesn't foul people and goes for the ball. I think [Chris Wondolowski] was great. I can't say enough about those two. They like playing with each other and they work hard. I think that they showed that tonight."
Chris Wondolowski - San Jose Earthquakes Forward
(On the result...) "It's a great win, Seattle is a tough place to play it took eleven of us to battle and fight."
(On it being similar to the last game...) "To be honest it reminds me of the last couple of years. In 2010 we did the same thing, scored in the first 10 minutes and held on 1-0 to win. Last year we lost 2-1 but it's a tough place to play. We tried to go in, tried to battle and it's nice to get one and take the lead. Our defense played unbelievable, credit to them."
(On his team's defense...) "It's unreal. Busch commands it, he's done a great job with a couple great saves. You have Bernardez winning almost every head ball and Jason [Hernandez] coming in at center-back... it's a very tough thing to do against Estrada and Montero. Credit to all of our defenders, it's a pleasure to play with them and I'm proud to be apart of it."
(On the penalty kick...) "It's a shot from 12 yards away. I'm a forward, I should make it and it doesn't matter what keeper is in there. Anytime I take a PK I play to myself and try to stay away from playing the keeper as much as possible. He's a big guy and it's a bit intimidating, I always try to put my laces through it and put it in a corner."
(On people taking the team more seriously...) "Don't know, don't care honestly. They can take us seriously or not, all I know is that we're going to battle and try to get three points every week."
Jon Busch - San Jose Earthquakes Goalkeeper
(On playing a bigger spending team...) "You know what, we go about our business. We talk about it in the preseason... we're here for one job we know we're deep enough to win the cup this year and it's one game at a time. There's 34 games in the season and then playoffs; we aren't getting carried away. At the end of the day this is just game four and we need to keep moving forward. It's a big win and we're going to enjoy it but at the end of the day, come Monday, we start preparing for the next one."
(On the save at the end...) "Montero brought it down and tried to bring it to my right and I was able to get a hand on it and push it away."
(On playing in Seattle...) "I enjoy playing here, it's a great atmosphere. It's one that you can get up for. If you can't get up for such a great atmosphere then you're in the wrong business. The fans are tremendous, they have a good team up here. It's always nice to play up here because you know it's going to be a great game with a good atmosphere."
(On three shutouts in four games...) "With these boys in front of me, nothing surprises me. These guys are tremendous. We have so much depth on this team now."
(On conceding no goals in open play this year...) "The only thing I care about is wins at the end of my career and championships, that's all that matters. Stats are for you guys to pick apart. At the end of the day, I just want trophies."