For the first time in the Brian Schmetzer era, the frustration over Seattle Sounders soccer was discernible.
The distress over lack of scoring — and, in particular, playing from behind — could easily blow the top off Mount Rainier.
In a rematch Saturday of last season’s MLS Cup final against shorthanded Toronto FC, the Sounders had every reason to secure a victory, collect the three points and head to an extended weekend of rest and enjoyment.
Instead, Toronto pinned a 1-0 loss on Seattle, ending its 14-game home unbeaten streak in front of 41,468 stunned fans at CenturyLink Field.
It was also Schmetzer’s first home MLS loss since he took over as coach of the club last July, replacing Sigi Schmid.
After the match, Schmetzer gave a state of the union address about his team, which dominated possession (63.4 percent) and total passes (660-337), and also held an edge in total shots (12-11).
But it was the Reds who scored the lone goal — on Jozy Altidore’s penalty kick in the 23rd minute.
“The reality is we lost the game because we couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net,” Schmetzer said. “The reality is we are still a good team. The reality is nobody is in panic mode. The reality is we know there is no magic formula that halfway through the season that will turn things around, so (the players) need to start thinking about how to help the team win.”
Make no mistake, the last part of Schmetzer’s harangue was pointed toward his players’ desire to stick their nose in where it gets most crowded — the opposing penalty box.
“We were getting in decent spots, but I don’t think we have the conviction with the final pass — and the finish,” Sounders forward Will Bruin said. “That was the difference.”
The Reds came to town leaving a few of their key players, notably forward Sebastian Giovinco and midfielder Victor Vazquez, home for extended rest, especially after they played an MLS match Wednesday against Orlando.
An early goal by Seattle could have turned this one in its favor permanently — and the Sounders thought they had one in the sixth minute off a set piece.
Jordan Morris’ redirected kick from the left wing skidded through everybody and into the goal. But referee Jair Marrufo waved it off, saying that Gustav Svensson interfered with the play by being offsides, even though he never touched the ball.
“His decision was correct,” Schmetzer said. “Gustav made a play for the ball.”
Regarded as a true game-changer, Altidore, indeed did just that in what proved to be the definitive sequence 16 minutes later.
Altidore made a cut in the Sounders’ box, and had a clear path along the left side — all before center back Roman Torres wiped him out on a tackle from behind.
Altidore was awarded a penalty kick, and blasted it by goalkeeper Stefan Frei into the upper-right corner to give Toronto a 1-0 lead.
“If we wanted, there were a million excuses today — short rest, brutal travel day, early kickoff, turf, a few guys at home — you name it,” Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley said. “But good teams with real mentalities find ways on all types of days to compete, and to win.
“This is a big win.”
This was supposed to be the month the Sounders made up ground in the Western Conference with a slate of home matches. Instead, they barely survived a 3-3 tie with New England — and now a devastating loss to the Reds.
“I think our attacking movements are pretty good. It’s just getting the monkey off our back to try and get the first goal,” Schmetzer said. “Against (Los Angeles) and New York, we scored first, and we ended up winning games. The rest of the season has been a challenge.”