SEATTLE – On a night when three goals were needed, two goals brought little solace. Seattle’s miracle comeback from a 3-0 aggregate deficit came up one goal short, sending the Sounders into an early winter vacation.
Despite the silver lining of the team’s first playoff win in six tries, the disappointment in the locker room was palpable.
“It’s definitely a very empty, hollow feeling in our stomachs at this stage,” coach Sigi Schmid said after the game. “As I told the team, I’m happy we got our first playoff win … but we still have an empty feeling from the standpoint that we know we should have done better in Salt Lake.”
After a season that saw Seattle advance to the knockout stages of the CONCACAF Champions League and win a third consecutive US Open Cup, no one hid the disappointment of coming up short in the MLS Cup playoffs yet again. While Wednesday night’s result showed a fighting spirit, Seattle have yet to advance to the conference finals in three seasons.
For Jeff Parke, there was no sugar-coating that fact.
“We had big expectations here,” the defender said. “We wanted big things, and with the group we have here, there’s enough talent to push and win a Cup.”
“It’s definitely going to be bitter for a while,” he added. “This was the most important thing for us, to lift the Cup. … Now we’re not going to, and it’s disappointing for sure.”
Two events loomed large over the loss – Tony Beltran’s amazing goal-line save against Parke and Ned Grabavoy’s all-important third goal in the first leg in Utah. Multiple players pointed to each as turning points in the home-and-home tie.
Schmid also looked at the injuries Seattle suffered. With two midfielders coming off in the first half, Seattle’s tactical choices late in the match were limited. The coach noted that Erik Friberg, in particular, looked tired when Seattle pushed for the final goal.
“Tonight, I can’t fault our team for our effort, our desire,” Schmid said. “I think we showed our fans our character tonight.
“I know last year, at the end of the playoffs, I said about some people that the occasion was too big for them,” Schmid added. “I think tonight we finally figured out how to play in the playoffs and we got our first playoff win, but we figured it out one game too late.”
Andrew Winner covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com.