Slow start dooms Sounders as unbeaten streak halted
DON RUIZ; Staff writer
HOUSTON – Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller saw this one coming.
The Sounders fell behind early Saturday and never caught up in what turned out to be a 3-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo before a crowd of 18,465 at Robertson Stadium.
The Sounders are in the middle of three different competitions and finally fly home today from a three-legged trip that started last week with a 3,685-mile flight from Seattle to Panama.
But Keller didn’t cite any of that – nor the 90-degree heat at kickoff – as what made this Texas tumble predictable.
Instead, he mentioned disturbing signs that were largely glossed over while the Sounders were running off a nine-game MLS unbeaten streak – one that came to a halt in Houston.
“I think we’ve been a little bit shaky defensively for a few weeks now,” Keller said. “We finally got to a stage where we couldn’t outscore the opponent. You give away too many of those kinds of chances from 6 yards out, you’re going to lose some ballgames.
“We’ve got to clean that up in our game. We’ve been talking about it for the last several weeks, and today we got punished because of it.”
Realizing the dangers of this game, coach Sigi Schmid told his team before the match how important it would be to get off to a good start.
Then, just the opposite happened.
First the offense failed, when Alvaro Fernandez skied an open shot far over the crossbar in the third minute.
Then the defense failed as the Dynamo (6-7-9) put in two short-range strikes in the first 23 minutes.
The first was an unassisted shot by Colin Clark, the other a snap header by Gonzga alum Brian Ching after passes from Brad Davis and Geoff Cameron.
“That’s how they’re successful,” defender Tyson Wahl said. “They’ve got a lot of big guys. Ching is great in the box. A lot of other guys are pretty effective in the box. They know how to play on this field, and they know how to play to the best of their abilities. … We have to do a better job of limiting those opportunities and a better job of clearing the ball when they’re in there.”
Seattle got back to striking distance in the 34th minute, after Fredy Montero was brought down in the penalty area. Referee Niko Bratsis whistled a penalty kick, and Fernandez knocked it in – his sixth goal of the season, pulling him even with Montero for the team lead.
The one-goal difference remained until the 70th minute, when Clark got free down the left side, and while the Sounders gestured for an off-side call, Clark hit a cross to Ching, who knocked it home, again from just a few yards out.
“I thought Brian Ching showed his leadership abilities; I thought he carried that team: man of the match, without a doubt,” Schmid said. “We looked mentally tired, made some mistakes. You can’t make those kinds of mistakes.”
However, the Sounders have been making them. And that’s what got Keller’s attention.
“Just giving them chance after chance after chance is just something that we really have to get out of our game in a hurry if we want to make a run, because right now it’s just too easy for teams to score goals against us, and that’s just not the way that we normally are,” Keller said. “Something bad is creeping in, and we’ve got to knock it out in a hurry.”
The Sounders (10-5-8) will conclude their CONCACAF Champions League preliminary series with San Francisco FC of Panama at 7 p.m. Wednesday at CenturyLink Field. The club returns to MLS play at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Kansas City.
Before the game, the Sounders announced the signing of Amadou Sanyang, a 19-year-old midfielder from Gambia.
Sanyang signed with Toronto FC at age 17 and made his MLS debut on his 18th birthday, Aug. 1, 2009. He played in 20 regular season games, including 15 starts, over two seasons. Toronto declined to exercise an option on him last December.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer