Sounders FC

Fouling, whining taint that fuzzy Sounders start

Seattle Sounders FC seems to be following Macaulay Culkin’s career path, and that’s not a great thing.

The former child star of “Home Alone” quickly grew from cute little kid that everybody loved into a less-likable adolescent who just made everybody miss the cute little kid he used to be.

Two days after the Sounders broke their five-game Major League Soccer draw streak with a 1-0 loss at Chivas USA, Northwest soccer fans may be longing for the Sounders that used to be: The ones who won. The ones who finished.

The ones, frankly, who were easier to enjoy.

Since the 3-0 start that made them the darlings of MLS, the Sounders are not only 1-3-5, but a frustrating and increasingly grumpy 1-3-5. They’ve picked up five red cards over the period. They’ve developed the unappealing habit of screaming at referees, even once play has resumed. And Fredy Montero and Freddie Ljungberg still play together as though they’ve never been introduced.

The Sounders are 1-3-2 with Montero and Ljungberg sharing the starting lineup. In the most recent loss, Montero was replaced in the 65th minute, while Ljungberg at least indirectly set up Chivas’ lone goal.

Ljungberg was whistled for losing the ball across the touch line. He disagreed and was still complaining to the linesman when Chivas threw the ball back into play.

Then two things happened, neither surprising: The linesman didn’t change his mind, and Chivas attackers beat the Sounders defense into the penalty area. Kasey Keller batted away Paulo Nagamura’s first shot, but the rebound was blasted back by the unmarked Eduardo Lillingston.

“It was a quick throw-in that we weren’t ready for,” Keller said. “One guy got behind us and we stopped him, but a second guy came and we didn’t have him marked, and he got a good shot in and we didn’t follow up on their players crashing the box.

“It all stemmed from just not being ready on the quick throw. It’s been a little bit of a problem of ours that we kind of switch off once in a while on throw-ins and quick set pieces, and that’s something we need to clean up.”

Sounders coach Sigi Schmid tried after Seattle’s home draw against Columbus the week before. But his complaints didn’t solve it. And neither did that Chivas goal, because even in the final minutes, the television broadcast caught Schmid yelling, “Freddie! Freddieeee!” as Ljungberg continued to nag at the referee while his teammates worked to make up the deficit.

Finally, in the 88th minute, forward Nate Jaqua picked up his second yellow card of the night and thus became the fifth Sounders player to be banished by red-card ejection.

And he’ll have company when he sits out San Jose’s visit to Qwest Field on Saturday because defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado picked up his fifth yellow card of the season for a reckless tackle in the 81st minute.

That could be a bad game for the Sounders to be in disarray, because it has become a potential life preserver for a team suddenly thrashing in deep water.

Seattle beat the Earthquakes, 2-0, in their previous visit to Seattle – the only Sounders victory since April 4. But in the interim, Chivas has increased its league-leading point total to 27 – a season-high 10 points ahead of Seattle. Houston has gone rushing past into second place with 21 points. Colorado has pulled even with 17 points and has one game in hand.

The Sounders have dropped into a tie for fifth in the league table. And they could fall out of the top eight – and out of playoff position – this weekend unless they take full advantage of a visit from the worst team in the West.

Saturday also begins a stretch when the Sounders will play five out of six games at home. And the lone road game is at New York, the worst team in the East.

It is a portion of schedule that offers a precious second chance – if the Sounders will just stop making things harder on themselves with red cards and counterproductive complaining.

Not every child star becomes Macaulay Culkin. Some adapt and find the staying power of a Diane Lane, Leonardo DiCaprio or Scarlett Johansson.

Midseason is approaching, Sounders. Which is it going to be?

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808