A 2-1 loss at Real Salt Lake in the summer heat and on short rest should not be cause for panic. But after the Seattle Sounders fell out of first place and have now lost 4 of 6 league games, that's probably what we can expect from a fanbase that is still suffering from some PTSD brought on by last season's collapse.
Taken in a vacuum, though, this wasn't an entirely unexpected result and the way it happened was not nearly as bad as it might seem at first blush.
The Sounders did not look like the better team in the first half, not by any stretch. But they were getting out on the break and creating some dangerous chances despite probably feeling a bit relieved to go into halftime tied 0-0. They needed to weather the early storm and they did. Everything was looking OK.
But the second half got off to an ominous start when Brad Evans was subbed off with apparent cramping and replaced by Andy Rose. The Sounders were already without Obafemi Martins (red card) and Marco Pappa (hamstring).
The game got more ominous when Zach Scott was called for a somewhat questionable foul in a dangerous spot and it got downright gloomy when Joao Plata, easily the shortest player on the pitch, put in a header off the ensuing free kick in the 53rd minute. Lamar Neagle was the closest player to Plata, but it didn't look like anyone had picked up the 5-foot-3, 11-goal scorer.
The situation got worse almost immediately when Osvaldo Alonso scored an own goal that wasn't entirely his fault. The Sounders missed a couple clearances and then Scott put a ball back across goal just about 25 yards out that Plata easily picked off and touched to Luis Gil. With the Sounders scrambling back on defense, Gil put in Luke Mulholland. Alonso was able to cut in front, but ended up touching the ball into the back of the net.
The Sounders had the better of play from there on out and did pull one back in the 72nd minute on Chad Barrett's fifth goal of the season, cleaning up Andy Rose's header that had struck the post. Clint Dempsey had a couple good lucks at the equalizer, but curled one shot wide and another just high.
It was too little, too late, though. The Sounders still have two games in hand on RSL, but they'll obviously need to get results in order for that to matter. The first chance comes on Wednesday when the host the San Jose Earthquakes. A win in that game will put the Sounders back on top by two points, but a loss? That's when the worries start to feel real.