How does an eruption cause destruction?
Ask Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid. He could supply sad reflection on that point following his team’s 3-1 loss against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts Saturday night before 13,124 onlookers.
The home team stood in last place while the Sounders due to a recent hot streak had finally clawed their way into playoff standing in the MLS Western Conference. Additionally, the Sounders had scored their most decisive win of the campaign when the Revolution visited Qwest Field and scored a 3-0 win after gaining all of its goals in an explosive first half.
Saturday’s encounter looked like it might have another smooth and favorable outcome for the Sounders when they got on the scoreboard with Steve Zakuani doing the honors. The Congo-born and British-bred speedster delivered his goal in the 59th minute.
The goal was generated on a feed from recent Uruguayan acquisition Alvaro Fernandez. His delivery to James Riley was followed by a pass back to Zakuani, who beat Matt Reis with a low shot to the far left side for his eighth goal of the season.
Not long after that the contretemps started and the Sounders were not the same thereafter. The spark was ignited when Sounders defender Patrick Ianni was blatantly punched in the cheekbone area by Shalrie Joseph. The blow had a delayed reaction. Ianni took several steps, then dropped to the ground.
The Sounders reacted with aghast and remonstrated with officials when not so much as even a yellow card was brandished. Considering the nature of Joseph’s intentional effort a red card and immediate removal would have been the anticipated action. Seattle players protested excitedly but nothing was done.
When the match resumed following a five or six minute delay beginning with Joseph’s blow to Ianni, a second incident occurred that rendered more glaring and inexplicable the catalyst that went unpunished. Some quick action resulted in Seattle striker Fredy Montero moving with a New England player toward the sideline and ending just beyond.
As the players stood just outside the field of play Montero delivered a slight, harm-free nudge. The result was a yellow card issued against the Colombia Comet. Montero argued vehemently and was ultimately restrained by several of his teammates.
Montero’s angry disgust was assuredly a response measured alongside what he had seen Joseph do a short time earlier and escape from without so much as a yellow card. The duality was appalling to Montero, the Joseph blow to Ianni which resulted in the Seattle player falling to the ground and remaining there for several moments in a daze coupled with incidental jostling in his own case resulting in a yellow card.
The match proceeded into the “eruption causing destruction” second phase as the Sounders’ defensive concentration vanished and in a scoring surge between the 70th and 81st minutes the home team slammed home three goals to secure its ultimate 3-1 triumph.
New England generated its 70th minute equalizer after Kevin Alston took a long throw-in that Joseph headed on to the back post for Chris Tierney, who headed it past Kasey Keller.
"I didn't think we defended that throw-in well," Schmid acknowledged after the match. "We had just cleared one off the line right before. Nobody took charge of it and figured out that they were going to do the same thing again."
The Revolution was on a roll and just three minutes later, the 73rd minute, was back again with the score that would have been enough to settle the evening’s encounter in its favor.
Marko Perovic scored when he took a deflected pass inside the box and rolled it into an open net. This would be followed by another tally in the 81st minute. Ilija Stolica found Kheli Dube near the top of the box and finished it into the top corner of the net.
Steve Zakuani commented afterwards on the effect that the Joseph-Ianni brouhaha coupled with the resulting delay had on the match.
"I think that probably was the turning point," Zakuani said relative to the scrum. "There was a five or six minute delay. We just scored and after that, as the coach told us, we lost our composure a little bit."
Seattle was outshot on the night by a 16-12 count. The number that jumps out and reveals the pressure that the visitors were under was the decisive 9-3 Revolution advantage on goal.
Once more veteran goalkeeper Kasey Keller performed with poise and skill when things got hot. He ended with six saves, including a superb stop on Stolica's shot in the second minute and a fingertip save on Tierney's shot in the 76th minute.
The loss was the first for Seattle in MLS play since a July 4 3-1 road setback against the Los Angeles Galaxy. Sounders FC now stands at 9-9-5 with 32 points in MLS play. Seattle is currently fourth in the Western Conference.
New England’s victory halted a three match losing streak. The Revolution is now tied with Chicago for fifth spot in the Eastern Conference. It stands at 7-12-3 for 24 points.
The Sounders had played with devastating sparkle in their 3-1 victory over Chivas USA on Wednesday in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cut semifinal before a buoyant home sellout crowd in Tukwila, Washington, earning the right to face Columbus Crew in the final round.
After coming off such an emotional high and then immediately flying 2,500 miles for a Saturday night MLS match in New England the Sounders looked flat, lacking the kind of zest and energy displayed Wednesday.
Such is the fate that MLS teams encounter based on a long regular season schedule augmented by extra competition that is vital to stir interest and enhance prestige, appearances in U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF matches along with international friendlies.