Leave it to veteran defender Zach Scott — “Mr. Sounder” — to sum up Seattle’s season so far in three words: “It’s getting old.”
The remark was delivered to JOEtv seconds after the Sounders lost a lead and then the game to the New England Revolution, 2-1, at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
It was Seattle’s third loss in a row, fourth in five road games, and seventh in a season now 12 games old.
So, it’s easy to understand all that losing is getting old — especially for a club and a fan base so unaccustomed to life one point from the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
Getting especially old are losses in games that could have been draws or wins. And so is giving away goals by penalty kicks. Both of those things also happened against the Revolution (3-4-7).
Seattle (4-7-1) struck first, as third-year forward Aaron Kovar got his first MLS goal.
The play came in the seventh minute, beginning with a long cross into the box by defender Joevin Jones. Revolution goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth punched it away, but Kovar received it atop the penalty area. He touched the ball from his left foot to his right before sending it past Shuttleworth and just inside the far post.
“We got the goal and we were feeling pretty good,” Kovar said. “…It’s definitely a weight off my shoulders, getting that first one.”
However, coach Sigi Schmid didn’t think his team played as well after the goal as it had before. And then in the 23rd minute, things changed dramatically.
The Revolution sent the ball in front of the Seattle goal, and Scott was there to clear it out. However, his clearance went directly at midfielder Erik Friberg, seeming to hit him mostly in the torso, but referee Fotis Bazakos blew his whistle and pointed to the spot.
“From my position, I observed Friberg’s arms raised away from his body,” Bazakos wrote in response to the New England pool reporter. “Then I observed his arm making contact with the ball.”
Schmid said he didn’t have a clean look and hadn’t seen a replay. However, Scott’s look was about as good as anyone’s, and he was saw things differently. “It was an absolute joke, and the ref knows it,” he told JOEtv.
Goalkeeper Stefan Frei also was positioned for a good look.
“It’s a very close distance, and I think Erik actually tries to move his hands in — the opposite of what you would say would happen on a PK, when you move your hands out and influence the play,” Frei said. “It hit him straight in the chest.”
However, the next word Frei spoke was “But.” And after that, he went on to make the point that excuses don’t serve the team as well as would goals and wins.
After all, it was the Revolution that went on to produce a winning goal: Femi Hollinger-Janzen beating everyone to a 50-50 ball and firing it back into the net.
And that brought Frei to his bottom line: What might be getting oldest of all is simply waiting for the fates to start smiling more kindly.
The club plays Wednesday at D.C. United before the league takes a two-week break for Copa America Centenario, and Frei made the case that if the Sounder want to recall how much more fun it is to win, they’re going to have to make it happen on their own.
“You can’t sit there the whole season and say, ‘Oh, we’re unlucky,’” Frei said. “In the end, you’re not going to make the playoffs because of it. So I think maybe we have to be a bit more imposing on our opponent and just create luck up top for ourselves.”
Game in review
REVOLUTION 2, SOUNDERS 1
The bottom line: The Sounders scored first but couldn’t hold on, losing 2-1 to the New England Revolution. The loss was the third straight for Seattle, which falls to 4-7-1. The club remains winless on the road. New England inched ahead in the all-time series, 5-4-1.
The goals: Seventh minute: Seattle’s Aaron Kovar scores first MLS goal. 24th minute: Lee Nguyen equalizes with penalty kick after hotly disputed handball-in-box call against Erik Friberg. 80th minute: Femi Hollinger-Janzen provides the winner from just atop the penalty area.
Sounder of the match: Rookie central defender Tony Alfaro had a solid 50 minutes in his MLS debut, relieving Brad Evans who took a shot to the head.
Key moment: Referee Fotis Bazakos awarded what seemed an outrageous penalty when Zach Scott’s clearance went directly into teammate Erik Friberg. The ball didn’t seem to actually hit Friberg’s hand, but even if it did, the Sounders argued ball-to-hand, rather than hand-to-ball.
Notes: Both Seattle designated players -- forwards Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez – missed the game due to duty with the United States and Paraguay national teams respectively. … Central defender Chad Marshall, who had been reported “all in” last week at training, was kept off of the game-day roster. He traveled, however, and coach Sigi Schmid indicated he could be ready for the Wednesday match at D.C. United. … Seattle has been called for six penalties in the box.
Quotes: “I thought we started the game well. After we scored the goal it seemed like we took our foot off the gas for some reason and weren’t playing as aggressively.” – Schmid
Next match: At D.C. United, 5 p.m. Wednesday, Channel 13.