Perhaps it was the travel from Panama that bothered Seattle Saturday night. Perhaps it was the heat, which still hung in the air despite evening kickoff. Certainly the defensive miscues played their role.
No matter the reason, Seattle’s nine-game undefeated streak in MLS play came to an end in Houston. The Dynamo's Brian Ching’s two goals proved too much to overcome on a hot night in Texas as Seattle lost their first league match since late May, 3-1.
In his postgame analysis, goalkeeper Kasey Keller pointed to the team’s ongoing defensive issues, many of which have been masked by the team’s two straight come-from-behind victories. Seattle have now allowed eight goals in their past three games.
"I think we’ve been a little bit shaky defensively for a few weeks now,” Keller said. “We finally got to a stage where we couldn’t outscore the opponent. You give away too many of those kinds of chances from six yards out, you’re going to lose some ball games. We’ve got to clean that up in our game.”
After the long travel, the fatigue looked evident for the Sounders.
“We looked mentally tired, made some mistakes, and you can’t make those kind of mistakes," Seattle coach Sigi Schmid.
Though they didn’t come out with the victory in Houston, Seattle competed well against the Dynamo. The competitive streak manifested itself in some rough play later on, with Colin Clark giving a hearty shove to Álvaro Fernández late in the match.
Schmid said the match was allowed to be played physically, which suited Houston. He also lauded Ching on his leadership abilities.
“This is the type of game where if you put Brian Ching on our team, I think we win tonight,” Schmid said. “I think one player, who is an influential player, who is a leader like that, can make a difference in a game like this.”
While Seattle didn’t have Ching, they did have Fernández.
“El Flaco” scored his sixth goal of the season, tying him for the team lead with Fredy Montero and giving Seattle a valuable goal threat from midfield. After the Steve Zakuani injury, there was concern that the offense would lose some of the balance.
Fernández, although he scored from the penalty spot in Houston, has provided a goal threat on the left wing for Schmid’s team.
Seattle won’t have too much time to dwell in the loss. Schmid will lead his team into action the night of Aug. 3 against San Francisco in the all-important second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round.
The Sounders will need to overturn a 1-0 advantage from the first leg to reach the group stage of the CCL. Schmid hopes his team can flush this long road trip from its memory before then.
“It just feels like a long stretch,” Schmid said of his team. “I think right now their minds are a blank slate. I don’t know what they are feeling. I think they are feeling tired and disappointed and embarrassed. We have to make sure we get together for our next game.”
Andrew Winner covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewWinnerMLS