If you had told me two weeks ago that the Sounders would win four of their next five, that they would be sitting in second place with games in hand, I would be ecstatic. We’re talking about the best start in Sounders (MLS) history, and even a few days ago I would have told you not only that I was happy with how the Sounders have performed, but that a loss to Salt Lake shouldn’t be disappointing.
So I’m not sure why I’ve spent all of Sunday so frustrated with how last night went. It’s probably not even fair for me to be frustrated. The team by and large played its ass off on Saturday. You didn’t need postgame quotes to see just how tired certain players on this team were. David Estrada was limping. Rosales’ passing wasn’t as pinpoint as it usually is. Nor were Burch’s crosses. Maybe Evans would have played if his hamstring hadn’t been subjected to the last few weeks of consecutive matches.
Poor Parke was gassed. I hate to say I called it, but the guy was hobbling like someone about to finish a marathon. Which, effectively, he was. He was in the starting lineup for EVERY SINGLE MATCH in this five game stretch. He played… let’s see… 90, 180, 270, 360… should have paid more attention to those skateboarding tricks… 450 MINUTES! Now that I think about it, I can’t recall anyone managing a 270 degree spin. I WONDER WHY. (/sarcasm) And despite the number of minutes he played, he still huffed it into attacking positions when it was relevant to do so. Parke was a warrior in this game, and it’s a shame the scoreline didn’t reflect the effort he and his teammates put into it.
And the worst part was that there was nothing that could be done about it. Patrick Ianni was out with back spasms, and while Andrew Duran made his first 18 this week, it’s hard to know if he could have played up to the standards of even a suffering Parke.
A seat mate remarked some time after the goal that Salt Lake may very well have been playing Seattle’s fitness. The Royals bunkered in for the majority of the first half, notably passing back and forth waiting for Seattle to try to challenge for the ball. Then, in the second half, they struck, and went back into their bunker.
I don’t want to take anything away from Espindola’s goal. As much as I dislike the guy, it was a good shot. It could have been covered by a defensive player, but Meredith didn’t have much of a chance once it was in the air.
That back line of Salt Lake gives me fits. If there was a duo of centerbacks in this league that I’d prefer over Parke and Hurtado, it would likely be Olave and Borchers. They nearly eliminate the aerial attack, and with Beckerman in front of them, don’t allow anything significant through the middle either.
I haven’t watched the recap yet. I’m not sure if I will. And if I do, I’ll probably realize that the referee wasn’t as radioactively random as I believed he was in real time. That he wasn’t truly as bipolar as he seemed. But Geiger was as frustrating to watch as just about anyone that has reffed a game at home in some time. Did he affect the result? I don’t know. Probably not. Almost certainly not. But on days like this I like to think it was his fault. It makes me feel better.
So now, while the Sounders have come out to a great start to this season, they have also lost to their two biggest competitors in the west. Unlike past years, we’ll have multiple opportunities for revenge (how’s that for finding a silver lining in the new schedule?). But perhaps the reason why I’m frustrated is that we haven’t beat what would be perceived as a top flight team in 2012. They’ve feasted on the bad teams this year. They handled the decent ones. But in three games against the top three teams in each conference, they are 0-2-1. And as much as this is a loss we should be able to shake off, it’s lingering right now.
There’s still room for optimism though, especially concerning the Supporters Shield. Kansas City lost this weekend. San Jose tied, and have a game in hand. Salt lake is only four points up on us with 3 additional games played. As it stands today, the Sounders should be the favorites for the shield. I’m just becoming afraid of these big, high-pressure games. It has been a while since Seattle won one.
Above all, I blame this loss on one thing: I have a friend who, unbeknownst to me, was in attendance last night. This friend has been to four games, three of which were 1-0 losses and one which was the tie versus Portland last year (he wasn’t at his seat…er…stand… when Seattle scored). He’s clearly cursing the squad, and I apologize to all involved for ever introducing him to the team. I will do my best to make sure he never attends again.
Wow, I really didn’t want to write about this game. At least I thought I didn’t. But I ended up writing a thesis on it. Oh well.