There is the normal complaining about officiating after a loss, and then there is the absolute outrage that the Seattle Sounders seemed to feel Saturday after their hotly disputed 1-0 loss at Sporting Kansas City.
Missing about half their starting lineup on a sweltering Midwest evening, the Sounders felt that they had been dealing with enough adversity most of the day. So when referee Ismail Elfath delivered a final dose — what proved to be the fatal dose — tempers boiled over on the field, with hard feelings lingering into the locker room.
In the 83rd minute of what had been a scoreless match, Elfath whistled Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei for a foul on Dominic Dwyer in the penalty area.
Benny Feilhaber converted the penalty kick, providing the margin of victory in the Western Division match at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas.
Dwyer and Frei had each darted toward the ball at the top of the penalty area. Frei extended both hands in punching the ball away, and then collided with the offensive player.
“That's never a penalty,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “Sorry. The goalkeeper comes out and punches a ball. That's never a penalty.”
Elfath decided it was with Frei sprinting over to complain, screaming the whole way. When he got there, Frei also made contact with the referee and drew a yellow card for dissent.
Then he took his place on the goal line, but was beaten by a Feilharber shot low and right.
The equalizer never came, as the Sounders ended with six shots — all on target, but none into the net.
Seattle played without several key players including Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Chad Barrett, Brad Evans and Osvaldo Alonso.
Dempsey, the team’s goals leader, was out due to the birth of his fourth child: Clayton Daniel Dempsey. Martins and Barrett were out due to injury. Evans was away on national team duty and Alonso was serving a one-game disciplinary suspension.
Dempsey, Martins and Barrett have combined for 16 of Seattle’s 20 goals this season.
With the top three forwards out, Schmid shifted the Sounders into a 4-2-3-1 formation with Lamar Neagle of Federal Way up top.
Neagle seemed to put Seattle ahead in the 66th minute, finishing a cross from Marco Pappa. However, he was ruled offside — yet another call that the Sounders disputed at the time and even more after seeing the replay.
“We deserved at least a tie,” Schmid said. “We scored a goal that was perfectly onside that got taken away. … But those are the way things go. I’m proud of my team.”
The result ended Sporting’s franchise-record nine-game winless streak against the Sounders. It also was Seattle’s first loss over five regular-season visits to Kansas City. The game was played before a sellout crowd of 21,505, the most ever at Sporting Park for a regular season game.
SKC (6-2-6) climbed to within two points of Seattle (8-4-2), which is tied with Vancouver atop the Western Conference standings.
“A lot of my feelings are probably going to get me fined about the way I feel about the game,” Sounders captain Zach Scott said. “Because I feel it was quite frankly stolen from us.”
The Sounders return home for their next two league matches, starting Saturday when FC Dallas visits CenturyLink Field.