After an especially difficult week, the Seattle Sounders hoped to find refuge on the pitch Saturday.
But only new frustrations awaited there, as the ravaged roster limped into CenturyLink Field and endured a 2-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes.
“I think we were really looking forward to this game,” veteran defender Zach Scott said. “The best remedy for poor performance in the past, or just a tough game like the (U.S. Open Cup loss to Portland), is to get back on the field. That’s what everybody wants to do is stop the chatter and getting back to what we love and what we’re good at.”
It turned out the Sounders weren’t good enough on this day, but they didn’t think the problem was the distractions of the week — and there had been no shortage of those.
In addition to Open Cup elimination by their archrival, there were the off-field issues that accompanied and followed that match: a red card to Clint Dempsey for tearing up the referee’s notebook, fans throwing items from the stands, coach Sigi Schmid’s postgame reactions to the refereeing, a Thursday apology from Schmid and owner Adrian Hanauer, all followed by Major League Soccer hitting Dempsey with a three-game suspension Friday.
There also were injuries that left Obafemi Martins, Osvaldo Alonso, Chad Barrett, Gonzalo Pineda and Leo Gonzalez unavailable. Adding in Dempsey, the Sounders on Saturday were without four starters, all three designated players, their top three forwards, and guys who have combined for 18 of their 23 goals this season.
On top of that, Schmid said Brad Evans (hamstring), Andy Rose (hamstring) and Marco Pappa (illness) all might have sat out had the roster been less depleted. All started, but only Pappa was around for the end. Others who didn’t show up on the injury report were still worn from the midweek extra-time loss.
“Our message going into the game was that we were coming out here to win the game,” Schmid said. “We’re going to fight and we’re going to battle and we’re going to make things tough on them.”
Seattle did that for most of the first half-hour. But in the 28th minute, the defense lost its shape and San Jose’s Sanna Nyassi, a former Sounder, ran into space on the right side and fired the first goal into the far netting.
“(We) made a couple of errors there, and they got that goal and so that made it a little bit more difficult for us,” Schmid said. “But the object was to see if we could play to zero, see if we could snag a goal on the other end of the field. If that first goal doesn’t happen, I think maybe the result turns out a little different.”
Instead, it was the Quakes (6-5-4) who took advantage again, this time with Matias Perez Garcia running into the teeth of the Seattle defense and emerging with the final goal in the 73rd minute.
“You need a full gas tank to play well sometimes,” Schmid said. “And when you’re playing on half a gas tank, it’s making it a little bit tougher.”
The Sounders (9-5-2) head out for a pair of back-to-back road games: Wednesday at Philadelphia, then Sunday at Portland.
Schmid said Barrett and Pineda could be back for those games, but didn’t hold out hope for any of the others.