Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer always said he considered four trophies in a single season unlikely.
And coach Sigi Schmid has long said winning the Supporters’ Shield was least likely of all.
That trophy – awarded to the MLS club with the best regular-season record – shifted from difficult to impossible Saturday as Seattle fell to the Philadelphia Union, 2-0, before a crowd of 36,304 at CenturyLink Field.
“It always hurts,” Schmid said. “But at the end of the day what’s most important is to win MLS Cup. You look at who won MLS Cup last year – Colorado. Did they win Supporters’ Shield? No. Who won MLS Cup the year before? Salt Lake. Did they win Supporters’ Shield? No. So maybe winning the Supporters’ Shield isn’t all that necessary to win MLS Cup.”
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The Sounders knew at kickoff that anything less than a win would mathematically clinch a fourth Supporters’ Shield for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
And they knew fashioning a win would be difficult with their top three offensive weapons unavailable. Leading goal-scorer Fredy Montero was out because of a yellow-card suspension. No. 2 goal-scorer Alvaro Fernandez was out due to a concussion. No. 3 goal-scorer and assists leader Mauro Rosales was sidelined because of a knee injury.
Between them, they represented 24 goals and 20 assists on a team that had a league-leading 51 goals and 45 assists on the season.
“We can say, ‘OK, we were missing those guys,’ ” Schmid said. “But we had enough people on the field, people who could do it. We just had too many people who didn’t have a good game.”
The Sounders were especially disappointed in their first-half performance – even though they went to the locker room even.
They were more pleased with their second half – which is when they gave up their two goals.
“We play (the whole game) with half the intensity that we did in the second half, then we come out on top,” midfielder Brad Evans said. “... That’s the bottom line: We came out slow. We absorbed pressure. They had good possession, but they weren’t dangerous. They didn’t get any good, clear possession in the first half. And when we did get possession, we didn’t connect enough passes, and that’s the name of the game, I guess. They get two soft goals. We kind of gifted them two.”
In the 60th minute, Philadelphia broke through with Freddy Adu finishing from short range after an end line pass from Gabriel Farfan.
That forced the Sounders to push forward aggressively. And they paid for it 10 minutes later, when the Union scored on a counter. Brian Carroll beat goalkeeper Kasey Keller to the far side after a pass from former Sounder Sebastien Le Toux.
“I asked my teammates (to) try to win tonight …,” Le Toux said. “We did it, and we’re in first; so it was great.”
The win moved Philadelphia (11-7-14) past Kansas City for the Eastern Conference lead.
Seattle (16-7-9) is one result short of clinching second place in the Western Conference.
On Tuesday, Seattle had won the U.S. Open Cup, and some players acknowledged that might have played a role in the result.
“That’s all part of it, but as a professional you have to be ready for stuff like this – you have to compartmentalize your season,” Keller said. “You have to say, ‘OK, Tuesday night was great. Now I have to get ready for Saturday.’ You’re going to have a lot of time in November, December, January to celebrate or commiserate on what you’ve done for the last eight months. So it’s frustrating for everybody..”
The Sounders remain in the running for MLS Cup and CONCACAF Champions League.
They have a rare one-game week ahead, returning to league play Saturday against San Jose in the final home game of the regular season.