Seattle Sounders FC has enjoyed such a charmed first season in MLS that fears about the unhappy ending of missing the playoffs have remained unspoken.
No one quite came right out and raised the issue Thursday after the Sounders’ 1-0 home loss to the New England Revolution, either. But veteran goalkeeper Kasey Keller came as close as anyone to saying how high a price might be paid for a series of near- misses and the club’s ongoing offensive slump.
“It’s time to truly see if we are a playoff (team) and a contender in this league,” Keller said in a dead quiet Sounders locker room. “This is the time when you need to start getting your form to get into the playoffs. Nothing would be worse for me to have as good a season as we’ve had and then let it fizzle out at the end.”
A crowd of 32,705 at Qwest Field watched Seattle fail to win for the fourth time in its past five league games – each time without scoring.
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The latest loss kept Seattle (8-6-8, 32 points) in fifth place in a league where the top eight teams make the playoffs. The Sounders are certain to drop one more spot Saturday, if either team can get three points out the Chivas USA-Toronto FC game.
“Every time we play at home, we want to win,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “For the most part, I thought we carried the game, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to score goals.”
The Sounders ended a club-record 335-minute scoreless streak last week in Los Angeles. However, it proved to be a brief reprieve as Seattle fired 11 shots against the Revs – none on goal.
“It looked like we could have played maybe three or four games tonight and not scored,” Keller said. “It’s difficult. I thought maybe after the win at L.A. we wanted to maybe get a good run going. We have so few home games left, we truly wanted to take advantage of it. I think sometimes when you have a pretty good home record, you’ve got great fans, sometimes you take things for granted a little bit like you’re going to show up and it’s just going to go your way.”
Both teams started with aimless offenses featuring lots of high 50-50 balls being volleyed about.
However, New England (6-8-6) got the only goal it would need in the 21st minute when 6-foot-3 Shalrie Joseph muscled past 5-8 Peter Vagenas in the penalty area and fired past Keller at close range.
“That’s the frustrating thing about this game: a team can show up, get the goal, defend the rest of the way and win it,” Keller said. “And it was really up to us, being the home team, to change that.”
After falling behind, the Sounders quickly created a series of opportunities for Fredy Montero, Nate Jaqua and Patrick Ianni. Another came when Steve Zakuani sent a sizzling shot at the goal, only to smack Montero in the face, knocking him down and snuffing the threat.
But the best chance came just before halftime, when Montero was fouled inside the penalty area. However, Montero’s penalty kick whacked off the crossbar and ricocheted down just outside the goal line.
After the game, Schmid said Montero wasn’t supposed to take the shot, but that the man he had assigned to take it deferred. Schmid wouldn’t name the player.
Montero said he was offered the chance to take the kick and that he wanted to because he is the team’s leading goal-scorer.
“There was a player designated to hit the PK,” Schmid said. “He needs to stand up and take responsibility for that. I haven’t blown up about it yet, but I’ll blow up (at practice today).”
One of the pregame story lines didn’t pan out, as the Nyassi twins did not share the pitch – although it was a near-miss. Sainey Nyassi started for New England but was subbed out in the 68th minute. Sanna Nyassi came on for Seattle in the 69th minute.
The Sounders return to training this afternoon, preparing for a Sunday evening date at Houston, the Western Division leader.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808