During this summer swoon, the Seattle Sounders have lost players during games, during training and due to off-field incidents.
On Sunday, they lost one during a goal celebration.
That came in the first minute of their game against the Los Angeles Galaxy, as Chad Barrett gave Seattle a short-lived lead in what turned out to be a 3-1 loss at sold-out StubHub Center in Carson, California.
After Barrett’s breakthrough, the star-studded Galaxy turned on the jets, while the absence-riddled Sounders lost for a club-record fifth consecutive time.
“We’ve just got players going down left and right — from scoring goals for crying out loud,” veteran Seattle defender Zach Scott said. “But what can you do other than just play it out?”
Two of the Galaxy’s goals came from designated players: the game-winner from Robbie Keane, and the score-capper from Mexico national team star Giovani dos Santos in his Major League Soccer debut.
Meanwhile, all three Seattle designated players were absent. Clint Dempsey was the surprise, staying home with a hamstring injury suffered Friday in training. Obafemi Martins missed his ninth league game in a row with a leg injury. And newly signed striker Nelson Valdez is expected to make his MLS debut next weekend. Even Osvaldo Alonso, a DP until a paperwork tweak last week, was out with a hamstring injury.
The Sounders dropped to 10-12-2, already matching the club record for losses in a season with 10 games left.
“The guys on the field have a lot of pride in our own ability and we want to win,” Seattle midfielder Andy Rose said. “It leaves a little bit of a sour taste in our mouths. But we were missing some of our top, top players. You play with players like Oba and Clint and Ozzie and (Marco) Pappa and these top, top players, and you realize why they’re so special.”
Given all that, the biggest surprise of the sunny Southern California afternoon might have been that Seattle struck first.
Barrett took a precise pass from Erik Friberg and knocked it in from close range in the first minute. It ended an MLS scoreless run of 363 minutes for the Sounders, and it marked the earliest goal allowed by the Galaxy since 2009.
But as Barrett happily raced away, he pulled a hamstring and was replaced by rookie Cristian Roldan.
Los Angeles (11-7-7) equalized in the 13th minute when Seattle failed to clear a corner kick and Gyasi Zardes finally put it away from the corner of the penalty area.
The Galaxy moved ahead early in the second half, in the 47th minute, when a Juninho pass into the area trickled through several Seattle defenders and to the foot of Keane, who knocked it in.
The capper came in the 64th minute when the Sounders lost possession near midfield, and Dos Santos went streaking behind the defense and finished past goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
When that score stuck, it marked the first come-from-behind victory in the history of the series.
“I’m a little disappointed about a couple of the goals that we gave up; a little disappointed on a couple of goals that we should have had, that we didn’t do well enough with chances,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “Goals change games.”
The Sounders hope this game marked a bottoming out of their personnel problems. The club seems confident that Martins will return and Valdez will debut next Sunday when expansion Orlando City SC visits CenturyLink Field. A spokesman said it isn’t believed that Dempsey’s absence will be long-term.
“We’re not out of the playoffs,” Scott said. “Our look is toward the horizon and guys returning. We’ve still got a tough stretch here with a bunch of games coming up very quickly. We know we’re going to hopefully get some guys coming in, getting healthy, and hopefully make a run.”
SUNDAY: Orlando City at Seattle, 2 p.m., ESPN2, 97.3-FM