Friday, August 20, 2010

SOUNDERS FC: Nine-game unbeaten streak ends in Honduras

After being banged around at the Olympic Stadium by Marathon of Honduras for the first 17 minutes of Thursday’s match, the Seattle Sounders drew first blood in what ended up being a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Marathón. In other words, Seattle’s unbeaten streak of nine matches (6-0-3) over all competitions has ended.

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Seattle scored the go-ahead goal when Fredy Montero pushed the ball up the right flank to the Marathón end line where he toyed with his defender until he cleared enough room to make a cross to Blaise Nkufo. The Swiss striker flicked a one-touch pass behind his back to the far side of the goal box where Roger Levesque calmly pounded the ball toward the near post, behind a defender and past Marathón’s Goalkeeper Shane Orio.

The next 10 minutes were owned by Seattle, but just as it seemed that the Sounders would surge to a second goal, Marathón clamped down on defense and turned the game in their favor.

Marathón found them facing Seattle’s goal in the 27th minute seemed to score without effort. Randy Diamond passed into the goal box, finding Orvin Paz, who threaded a low shot to the near post, catching the Sounders’ defense off guard and flat-footed.

Fast-forward to the end of the first half and Marathón is making a final push for a goal before the halftime whistle. The ball goes up near the Sounders’ goal box and as Tyrone Marshall attempts to feed the ball to goalkeeper Kasey Keller, but before he can make contact with the ball, Nicolas Cardozo wildly throws his leg towards the ball and into the path of Marshall’s kick. The resulting foul leads to a penalty kick and a second goal for Marathón.

“I don't know how it was a penalty,” said Keller after the match.

“I haven't seen the tape but it didn't look like a penalty to me. It looked like two guys swing and kick each others' legs and next thing you know the ball is in my hands and he [the referee] is signaling a foul. I don't know what he saw. It may have been good play by the striker but I don't know. That was frustrating."

What it comes down to is tactical awareness. Both teams the Sounders have faced in the CONCACAF tournament have played in the Champions league before and both are better at drawing fouls. Marathón used that to their advantage and earned a penalty on a routine feed to the goalie.

Both Metapán and Marathón have, for the most part, set the tempo of each game, forcing Seattle to play to their opponent’s style and making the Sounders vulnerable to tricks and flops. The loss was the first for the Sounders in a non-MLS competitive match (8-1-2).

Sounders Head Coach Sigi Schmid was pleased with the early goal by his team, but felt that a lack of energy was a major factor in this loss.

“I think our effort in the game, we didn't do well in the outset with [Carlos] Palacios on the one side and [Randy] Diamond on the other side. I think we were disjointed offensively. The last 20 minutes, 25 minutes of the game I thought we had very good energy. In the beginning of the game we didn't have good energy and we didn't see an awful lot of the ball. If you want to see the ball a lot you need to play hard. We need to be better next time.”

Seattle will host CF Monterrey of Mexico in the next CONCACAF match on August 25 at the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field. Their next league match is at Qwest Field on August 28 versus Freddie Ljungberg and the Chicago Fire and the U.S. Open Cup semifinal with Chivas USA is on September 1 at Starfire Sports Stadium.

Reach Galen Helmgren at