FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When Fredy Montero nailed a goal-of-the-year contender early in the Seattle Sounders FC game at New England on Saturday, a season-long trend pointed to good things for the visitors.
Over its first 26 games, Seattle had never lost a game when scoring first. For that matter, it had never lost a game when scoring at all.
However, both trends reversed at a time when the Sounders could least afford it. New England pulled even early in the second half on a penalty kick, then moved ahead in the closing minutes on a defensive blunder, and the result was a stinging 2-1 loss for the Sounders before a crowd of 15,961 at Gillette Stadium.
“I wasn’t disappointed with our aggressiveness,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “… New England scored a PK (penalty kick) and Shalrie Joseph scored a header. I mean, outside of that, I don’t think (goalkeeper Kasey) Keller had a whole lot to do.”
Seattle jumped ahead in the sixth minute when Montero worked his way down the touchline and fired a weaving shot from about 35 yards. New England goalkeeper Matt Reis didn’t even wave at the ball as it sailed over him, caught the bottom of the crossbar and came down across the goal line.
“I was not expecting it to go in,” Montero said through an interpreter. “But it was amazing the way the ball kind of curled in the air, and it went in.”
At that point, history was squarely on the Sounders’ side. They had never lost a game when they scored, and they were 8-0-3 when they scored first.
However, things were about to change.
New England seemed to take the momentum late in the first half. Then the Revolution got its break early in the second as Kheli Dube launched a cross from just outside the top corner of the penalty area, and the ball hit the raised arm of Seattle defender Leo Gonzalez just inside the area.
Joseph slammed the resulting penalty kick past Keller.
“We needed a break,” Revolution coach Steve Nicol said. “… We weren’t particularly inventive, but we got a break. It was definitely a handball, but that kind of pushed us forward.”
In the 86th minute, Seattle missed a chance to reclaim the lead when Montero was just wide on 6-yard bicycle kick.
Then, one minute later, Joseph broke free behind the Seattle defense and headed a cross from Jeff Larentowicz inside the far post past Keller.
“There was one guy in front of me, and I saw him clear out,” Joseph said. “Then I just wanted to stay onside, and there was one defender behind me, and Jeff just played a great ball. I just wanted to put it on target and put it in the corner. And once I saw Kasey in the middle, I picked out my corner.”
A replay showed that Joseph seemed to be offside. But it also showed a scattered Seattle defense in no position to overcome the error: Jhon Kennedy Hurtado moved forward after another player, James Riley was trapped in the middle of the pitch not marking anyone and Nate Jaqua trailed Joseph by several steps.
“We just lost concentration,” Keller said. “I mean, you’re marking one of the hardest guys on the field and he just ends up being wide open from 10, 12 yards out for a simple header, which just shouldn’t happen in the 86th minute. … It was just a mis-concentration problem and something that just shouldn’t happen.”
The final minutes played out, and the Revolution (10-8-7; 37 points) left the pitch with a prize of three points in the standings, closing to one point behind Seattle (9-7-11; 38) in a playoff race growing increasing frantic as the regular season ticks down.
The road gets no easier for the Sounders. Next weekend they travel to Columbus, Ohio, where they will meet the Crew, the defending MLS champion and current league points leader.
Jaqua, who started at midfield Saturday, will miss that game because of yellow-card accumulation.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808