Sounders FC heads into the World Cup break with plenty to think about.
For the club, there was a 3-2 home loss to MLS bottom-feeding D.C. United on Thursday.
But for Kasey Keller, there also was a goal so poorly handled that the veteran goalkeeper will use some of his free time to reassess his playing future.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed,” Keller said. “The guys worked extremely hard, and for me to let them down like that is frustrating. I said my whole career that once I feel I can’t do the job then I have to stop doing the job. But I feel great physically (and practice well, but) it’s just frustrating that this game and the L.A. game that I’ve hurt the team. ... I wanted to play another year, but not if I don’t play to the level that I expect of myself and the level that the players and the fans and the coaching staff expect of me. I will work extremely hard to try to make it better.”
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All three of D.C.’s goals were credited to midfielder Chris Pontius, but only the last one wasn’t redirected by a Sounder along the way.
The first – in the 39th minute – deflected off of Sounders defender Patrick Ianni.
But it was the next one that so frustrated Keller.
Just before halftime, Pontius fired a line drive from the top of the penalty area. The ball went straight at Keller, but it trickled on though his hands. Keller dived back, trying to avert disaster by slapping the ball away, but he couldn’t.
“Obviously the ball has gotten a lot of press from the guys in the World Cup talking about how terrible this ball is. And it is. It’s frustrating.” Keller said. “But I train with it every day, and I take thousands of shots. Yeah, there have been a few mistakes in training, but that’s what probably makes it more frustrating: that you know the ball is going to do crazy things and you’re able to react to it for the most part. Even today, after I blocked it, I thought I had it and it just spun away.”
Coach Sigi Schmid agreed that Keller should have made the save, but he seemed reluctant to come down hard on the former U.S. national team keeper who started the MLS All-Star game last season.
“Sure, he’s unhappy about that,” Schmid said. “He’s come up with some big saves for us as well, so you have to remember that part of it.”
Behind 3-0, and with many from the crowd of 36,146 already having departed, the Sounders suddenly conjured themselves back into the game.
James Riley scored in the 90th minute, and then Fredy Montero headed in a Freddie Ljungberg cross just about a minute later – the most tightly spaced goals in club history.
But with just three minutes of stoppage time, they would have needed to add an equalizer almost as quickly, and that didn’t happen.
“We’re back to making mistakes, and we concede goals,” Ljungberg said. “It’s a problem we have, and we have to stop doing it. It’s hard to play 3-nil down. Especially the first half, we dominated the game totally. They get some fluky goals, it makes the game hard.”
The Sounders seemed in control early. And by the end, they had launched a club-record 20 shots, putting eight on goal.
However, that was little consolation in a home loss to a team that heads into the break with a 3-8-1 record.
Meanwhile, Seattle fell to 4-6-3.
The players will get to live with that for more than two weeks, as the final whistle marked the start of a two-week break in the MLS schedule to accommodate the World Cup, which starts today in South Africa.
The Sounders return to league play June 27 at Philadelphia. They are hopeful that by then they will be strengthened by the return to health of defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso and big-target forward Nate Jaqua. By the next time they see United – July 15 in D.C. – the Sounders may also be joined by forward Blaise Nkufo after his World Cup duties with Switzerland.