SEATTLE - In the CONCACAF Champions League, the Sounders FC seemed snakebitten at times.
Tuesday was one of those nights.
Seattle took a 1-0 lead on a Nate Jaqua goal early in the match, but they then let in two uncharacteristic goals for Saprissa and wound up losing their final match in the Group Stage 2-1 in front of 11,434 at Qwest Field.
“It’s always disappointing when you give up a late goal like that, but that’s the way it was today,” head coach Sigi Schmid said. “There were times when we created some chances and were effective, but overall, our possession of the ball wasn’t what it usually is. They did a good job of holding the ball and making us chase it and we dropped off a little too much and allowed them to develop that game. We did a little better in the second half, but at the end of the day it wasn’t good enough.”
After a solid minute of possession by Saprissa to start the match, Seattle got themselves back into the game and Mike Fucito got the game’s first shot in the fourth minute, followed shortly by a header from Jaqua that found the mitts of Saprissa goalkeeper Minor Alvarez.
In the 17th minute, the Sounders push finally knocked down the door and they netted the first goal. Fucito bent a long-range free kick to the far post for Taylor Graham, but the ball was defended back to Alvaro Fernandez on the right side of the box. Fernandez crushed a shot from the top of the box and it redirected to Jaqua at the far post for a one-touch goal into the open net.
“It’s kind of one that just shot at my feet and my reaction, I didn’t even know where it was going to go,” Jaqua said. “Luckily it went in the back of the net.”
A spot where the Sounders had been able to build momentum in previous matches, Seattle instead let Saprissa right back into it with a goal in the 26th minute on a miscommunication in front of the net.
Zach Scott went to shield off Jairo Arrieta on a ball into the box, but the ball slipped both Scott and Kasey Keller and wound up spilling in front of the open net for Arrieta to touch it in for the equalizer.
Seattle looked able to maintain that 1-1 scoreline and possibly work their way into a victory, but in the 87th minute it was more uncharacteristic play that led to the go-ahead goal for Saprissa.
Josue Martinez got the ball to the right side and shot a hard right-footed shot at Keller at the near post. Keller attempted to punch the shot away and it caught him on the top of the fist and bounced into the near post, then through to the far side of the net for a 2-1 lead in the 87th minute.
“Nobody is harder on Kasey than himself,” Schmid said. “He’s saved us too many times. I’m not going to get on his case here. He’s a pro. Nobody’s more disappointed than he is. He’ll sort it out and it’s good to get out of the way now.”
Added Jaqua, “This was just a fluky play that, it’s just not going to happen again. You never lose confidence in Kasey. Kasey has been a rock back there for us and it’s just one of those things that happened.”
The loss leaves the Sounders with just three points in the Group Stage of their first run through Champions League. They were already unable to advance, but they still sought to improve on their one-win record in Group Stage play.
“I think everyone is disappointed. Every time this team steps on the field, regardless of who is out there, we expect to win and expect to perform up to a certain standard that we have showed over the last couple months,” midfielder Roger Levesque said. “I think everyone is disappointed, especially giving up a late goal tonight. The resilience that this team has showed is definitely a positive.”
The Sounders qualified for the 2011 CONCACAF Champions League with their US Open Cup Championship and will look to improve on their mark in next year’s tournament.
In the immediate future, though, they face the Houston Dynamo Saturday in the regular season finale. On the other side awaits the MLS Cup Playoffs, beginning Sunday, October 31, against an as-yet-undetermined opponent.
Sounders FC - Nate Jaqua (Alvaro Fernandez) 17.
Saprissa - Jairo Arrieta 26; Josue Martinez (Walter Centeno) 87.
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, Zach Scott, Tyrone Marshall, Taylor Graham, Tyson Wahl, Alvaro Fernandez, Mike Seamon, Peter Vagenas (Miguel Montano 62), Roger Levesque (David Estrada 76), Nate Jaqua (Sanna Nyassi 84), Mike Fucito.
Saprissa - Minor Alvarez, Gabriel Badilla, Jose Mena, Alexander Robinson, Ricardo Blanco, Walter Centeno, David Guzman, Mauricio Castillo (Alonso Solis 69), Javier Loaiza (Luis Cordero 72), Jairo Arrieta, Alejandro Sequeira (Josue Martinez 56).