SEATTLE - After a slew of emotional wins, highlighted by Tuesday night’s victory that gave them their third straight Lamar Hunt US Open Cup championship, the Sounders FC was bound to eventually have a letdown.
It came on Saturday night to the benefit of the Philadelphia Union, as the Sounders fell 2-0 to a Union side that now leads the Eastern Conference.
“I think we’ve had some emotional highs in the last two weeks and sometimes you come out a little bit flat and they were a little bit flat today, especially in the first half, and we left it for a little bit too late,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “It just serves as a reminder that in this league everything is so tight that if you come and aren’t wholly prepared to do all the work you need to do, you end up coming up short.”
Seattle was outplayed in the first half, but still managed to outshoot the Union and the game remained knotted at 0-0. In the second half, the Sounders dealt much better with Philadelphia’s 4-5-1 formation, but were unable to capitalize with a goal The Union, meanwhile, caught the Sounders napping on both goals.
The first came when Gabriel Farfan pushed to the endline up the left side, challenging James Riley for a ball that looked to be on its way out for a goal kick. Instead, Farfan clipped it back to Freddy Adu, who popped it past Kasey Keller to put the Sounders down 1-0 in the 60th minute.
Where the Sounders had been able to come back with such success throughout the season, they were unable to do the same on this night.
Seattle pressed for the equalizer on a corner kick in the 70th minute, but when Philadelphia cleared it, Sebastien Le Toux got away on a run and laid it off for Brian Carroll coming up the right side at the top of the box. Carroll finished it to the far post for the 2-0 lead.
“We came out slow, that’s the bottom line,” Sounders midfielder Brad Evans. “We absorbed pressure. They had good possession but they weren’t dangerous. They didn't get any good clear opportunities the first half. When we did get possession we didn't connect enough passes. That’s the name of the game. They got two soft goals that we gifted them, too, and that was it.”
Seattle was nearly able to take an early second-half lead, though, and momentum looked to be on their side when Keller made one of his signature saves in the 53rd minute, but the Sounders just couldn’t maintain the wave.
Brad Evans collected the ball at the top of the box in the 52nd minute amidst a crowd of players and chipped it over the head of Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath. Bound for the top left corner of the net, it sailed in slow-motion while the Sounders faithful in the Brougham End held their collective breaths only to let it out in anguish when the ball clanged against the crossbar and was snagged by MacMath before Seattle could get to the rebound.
At the other end, Veljko Paunovic caught a header at the far post and looked to give the Union the edge, only to have Keller paw the ball away for one of his two saves on the night. At that point, it looked like it would be another chance for the Sounders to claim victory, but the Union took advantage of their chances and Seattle fell to 16-7-9 (57 points).
“It was just one of those bad days. Everybody can look at whatever different excuse you want to come up with,” Keller said. “But at the same time we just weren’t good enough today and we have to hold our hands up and say, ‘That’s not good enough. Let’s get that out of our system and get ready to roll through the rest of the season.’ That’s at least how I’m looking at it.”
They will host the San Jose Earthquakes in the Reserve Division on Monday, then again in the regular season home finale on Saturday. In addition to Fan Appreciation night and Breast Cancer Awareness night, it will also be Keller’s last regular season home match for the Sounders. He will be recognized in ceremonies after the match for his illustrious career and contributions to the Sounders FC and soccer in the Northwest.
Sounders FC - None.
Union - Freddy Adu (Gabriel Farfan) 60; Brian Carroll (Sebastien Le Toux) 70.
Sounders FC - Lamar Neagle (caution) 63.
Union - None.
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Jeff Parke (Patrick Ianni 46), Tyson Wahl, Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Erik Friberg, Lamar Neagle, Mike Fucito (Nate Jaqua 68), Pat Noonan (Sammy Ochoa 62).
Union - Zac MacMath, Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, Gabriel Farfan, Michael Farfan, Brian Carroll, Justin Mapp (Jack McInerney 86), Freddy Adu (Amobi Okugo 75), Sebastien Le Toux, Veljko Paunovic (Stefani Miglioranzi 89).