COLUMBUS, OHIO – On Saturday, Seattle Sounders FC handed the Columbus Crew its first home loss since June 7, 2008 – when the team was coached by Sigi Schmid.
This time Schmid was on the visitors’ side of the pitch as the Sounders defeated the MLS leaders, 1-0, ending Columbus’ streak of 16 wins and six ties over its previous 22 games at Crew Stadium.
The streak didn’t die easily. Surprise-starter Roger Levesque scored the goal, which he described as “a mess.” Then the Sounders made it hold up over the final 54 minutes as Tyrone Marshall swept away one shot that got past goalkeeper Kasey Keller, and then Crew star Guillermo Barros Schelotto botched a penalty kick in the 83rd minute.
“Soccer is a strange game,” Schmid said. “Last week, we thought we were a little bit unlucky in (losing at) New England. This week, we had fortune on our side. It’s not often Guillermo misses a PK. We had the post save us. They had the post save them. … They’re the best team in the league, and (this win) is something we’re very proud of.”
Seattle (10-7-11) moved past Colorado in the MLS standings and joins Chivas USA and Chicago in a three-way tie for fourth place.
This injection of life in their playoff hopes followed an unusual set of circumstances, including one that happened well before the game. Last week, usual starter Nate Jaqua picked up a yellow card that made him ineligible to play against Columbus (12-5-10). Then, sometimes starter Sebastien Le Toux got sick and didn’t fully recover by game time. So, that set the stage for Levesque to get only his second MLS start and eventually his first MLS goal.
It came in the 36th minute, when Fredy Montero sent a low shot into diving Columbus keeper William Hesmer. The ball bounced away toward the top of the penalty area, where Levesque returned it into the open net.
“It was just a mess,” Levesque said. “Both of the Freddies did all of the work. (Freddie) Ljungberg turned, spun, I don’t know what he did, but … Montero put pressure on the goalkeeper, and then he spilled it. I was just in the right place at the right time.”
The Sounders made that stand up through various challenges, including 17 Columbus shots.
The Crew’s most serious threats came in the 70th and 81st minutes.
In the first, Steven Lenhart sent a looping shot over Keller that was inches from the goal line when Marshall managed to get his foot to it and sweep it away.
“It was a reactionary play,” Marshall said. “Kasey and me collided and I saw the ball going into the goal. So, the only thing was to see if I could get my foot up there and keep the ball from going in.”
The second came when Jhon Kennedy Hurtado was whistled for a hard shove of Eddie Gaven in the penalty area.
Schelotto – an MLS Golden Boot contender with 12 goals on the season – was selected to take the penalty kick. However, his shot trickled weakly left of the goal – which Keller attributed to scouting that took away the shot Schelotto wanted.
“We had a pretty good idea of what he was trying to do, and I think he changed his mind at the last minute because I kind maybe out-thought him a bit,” Keller said. “Sometimes that works – when a guy’s waiting for you to move, and you don’t move, and he has to change his mind at the last second.
“… A big three points. We’ve got two games left, and it’s nice and comfortable in our hands. If somehow we screw it up now, we have only ourselves to blame.”
Although they have not clinched a playoff berth, Sounders season ticket-holders will be offered a chance to purchase playoff tickets starting Monday. … Sounders defender Leo Gonzales has been called in by the Costa Rica national team for World Cup-qualifying matches Oct. 10 against Trinidad & Tobago and Oct. 14 against the United States. The dates coincide with an off period for the Sounders, who don’t return to league play until Oct. 17 at Kansas City.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808