SANTA CLARA, CALIF. – Seattle Sounders FC went from bad to worse Sunday, and finally to the worst loss in franchise history.
Bad was an own goal in the second minute. Worse was a red card that forced the Sounders to play a man down over the final 57 minutes. The result was even worse: a 4-0 pounding by the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium.
“We got embarrassed today,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “… When you play 30 games, sometimes you have one of those days. So, we’re going to chalk it up to that; and if we have another one, then we’ll turn some things upside down.”
The Earthquakes’ four goals were the most Seattle has allowed, topping the three allowed to D.C. United in a draw in June. And the four-goal defeat doubled the previous worst at Chivas USA in April.
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The loss leaves Seattle (7-4-8) six points behind league-leader Houston and just two points clear of a tie for ninth place in a league that sends eight teams to the playoffs.
“It’s a wake-up call for a few guys; I hope so,” goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. “This is the point of the season where you figure out where you’re at: Are you going to make a run in the playoffs or are you going to wither and die? Today, it looks like we’re going to wither and die.”
Keller said he believes the Sounders will fight back. But he also said he didn’t like the vibe he picked up when he returned from All-Star duty and joined a team that had taken four days away from practice.
Keller and some teammates also noted other problems specific to Sunday: A small and bumpy pitch in a small college stadium before an even smaller crowd of 9,919.
But handed that set of challenges, the Sounders quickly created more.
In the second minute, midfielder Osvaldo Alonso tried to clear a cross into the box, and sent it straight into his own net.
Thirty-one chippy minutes later, James Riley attempted a slide tackle with his feet raised and was sent off for the second time this season.
“We’ve taken too many red cards this year,” Schmid said. “We’ve got to stop taking them. We’ve got to shut up and play. It was preceded by a little go at the referee from James, and we don’t need that.”
After playing about 20 minutes with a man advantage, San Jose’s Cornell Glen made it a two-goal lead. Staring hard at an embarrassing loss to the Western Conference’s last place team (4-10-5), the Sounders started pushing forward. But that created open spaces in the back, which first Darren Huckerby and then Chris Wondolowski exploited for the third and fourth goals.
“A (combination) of things happened,” said Brad Evans, who impressed neither himself nor his coach in his first game back from national team duty. “You come out not getting the calls that you think you should. Then we take an own-goal early, and that kind of deflates the sails – it takes a resilient team to come back from that alone. Then we suffer a red card, and we take another goal, and it’s tough to come back from that. … Everybody’s going to walk out of here with their head down.”
Several Sounders said they were especially disappointed in their performance because it came in front of approximately 200 chanting, singing, scarf-raising, flag-waving, rave-green-wearing supporters who had traveled to watch.
The defeat also cost Seattle the inaugural Heritage Cup, which will be presented annually to the winner of competitions between MLS teams playing under their historic NASL names.
For now, that’s only the Sounders and Earthquakes. And this season, only the final two games were counted, which gives the Quakes the cup even though Seattle won two of three meetings.
“I don’t know how that works,” Schmid said. “Maybe next year we’ll play the Heritage Cup and whoever scores the most goals between the 54th minute and the 78th minute of the second game (will) win the Heritage Cup.”
The Sounders return to Qwest Field on Wednesday for a friendly against F.C. Barcelona.
They return to league play Saturday at Real Salt Lake.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808