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How the Sounders process heartbreaking results

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San Jose’s injury-time equalizer was like a gut punch for the Sounders—but they have to move on.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at San Jose Earthquakes John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Even though Saturday’s match between the Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes kind of felt like an inevitable draw, Nicolas Lodeiro’s late goal for the Sounders seemed like the perfect snatch-and-grab by the away side. But their joy faded quickly as the Earthquakes struck back with just minutes to go to rescue a point. Despite probably deserving a draw in the match, the team is still recovering from the dramatic match days later. Head coach Brian Schmetzer said on Tuesday that the pain is still there, especially fresh after the team’s first post-match film session that morning.

It might seem like it was a few minutes of chaos that burned the Sounders’ chances at three points in San Jose, Schmetzer noted that there were multiple occasions in which his team frustrated him during that match. The Sounders play a possession-based, attacking game, and Schmetzer said that the moments in which they stopped playing their brand of soccer, they suffered. “I would say there were certain parts of the game where I felt we were able to impose our will a little bit and try to get a little bit more out of the game than just the one goal off a set piece.”

It wasn’t just about not following the game plan, either. Schmetzer also thinks his team lacked focus too many times against San Jose—one of those occasions being when Wondolowski scored his goal. “MLS games are so tight, teams are so close that if you don’t focus for 90 minutes, it ends up costing you.” He said that playing on the road makes those margins even thinner, and even a brief lack of focus will be punished by the home side.

Considering the actual moment when Wondolowski scored, Schmetzer said that individual performances didn’t make him mad. He wasn’t angry about the blown assignments that allowed Marco Urena to receive a pass from Cordell Cato out wide. He wasn’t angry about the four Sounders that the ball skipped past on its way to Wondolowski. Rather, he was “irritated” about the way his team responded after scoring, which allowed the Earthquakes to take control and create the kind of scoring chances that they hadn’t had for 90 minutes. “When we’re up 1-0 with four minutes to go, are we controlling the tempo? That’s the question I ask. We’re a senior team, we can hang. Let’s slow this down, we got this. This is how we’re going to close it out.”

For nearly 90 minutes, the Sounders mostly played their brand of soccer, albeit without too much in the actual goalscoring department until Lodeiro smashed in Dempsey’s blocked free kick. “When we scored the goal, we’re organized, we’re disciplined, we’re refocused and concentrated.” Schmetzer stressed again that keeping up the same tempo after scoring is vital, that letting the opponent control the game and possession is what led to the equalizer. Sounders captain and midfielder Osvaldo Alonso echoed Schmetzer’s sentiment: “We have to try to keep the ball, keep the tempo, and find a way to score goals to win the game.”

The Sounders coaching staff also self-reflect after heartbreaking moments like that, wondering if they made the right calls, the right tactics, the right substitutions. But after all that, Schmetzer said, days like Tuesday were about figuring out “what could we have done better to help the guys seal that victory?” and how they’d change that in the future. With a game against the Whitecaps looming on Friday, they’ll be hoping to figure that out quickly and return home with three points from their Cascadia rivals.