CARSON, Calif. – The Seattle Sounders are experiencing a horrible feeling of déjà vu. And they don’t like it.
A little more than a year ago, the Sounders opened up a playoff series on the road at Real Salt Lake and got off to a spirited, encouraging start. But then they gave up a goal toward the end of the first half, overcompensated and then watched everything go to pot.
On Sunday night at the Home Depot Center, it was almost a mirror image of that performance at Rio Tinto Stadium in late October 2011 as Seattle put in yet another solid first half in the first leg of the Western Conference Championship against the LA Galaxy. But then Robbie Keane’s stoppage-time goal changed everything.
And the ending was exactly the same as it was then: The Sounders ended up succumbing to a deflating 3-0 loss, and head home with a mountain to climb. The parallels were not lost on Sigi Schmid.
POSTGAME: Schmid, Johnson react to 3-0 loss
“Obviously we didn’t learn much because we did the same thing this year,” the Sounders head coach told reporters after Sunday night’s loss. “Because we talked about it – we talked at halftime, we said, ‘1-0 is OK. We walk away 1-0, we’re alright.’”
But then, exactly as they did 13 months ago, they pushed too hard to equalize and were knocked dizzy by an opponent that was more than happy to take advantage of their eagerness to press. In the 64th minute, the Sounders were pressing forward with numbers and got caught when Mario Martínez’s errant cross was intercepted by Christian Wilhelmsson. That kicked off a near end-to-end counter that was touched by David Beckham, Robbie Keane and Sean Franklin before Mike Magee finished past Michael Gspurning.
“I think we possibly pushed a little bit when we shouldn’t have pushed to try and get the goal back, because getting the goal back wasn’t important,” said Schmid, repeating that heading home down 1-0 to the defending champs was a perfectly acceptable first-leg result.
But then it got worse. The floodgates opened when Keane added a second four minutes later and the Galaxy missed three opportunities to add to the lead even further.
Now the Sounders head back to CenturyLink Field for next weekend’s second leg exactly where they were after last year’s Western Conference Semifinals: down three goals and needing nothing short of a flawless performance to bridge the gap – which they nearly did against RSL.
“It was the same and we’re not happy about this,” Fredy Montero told MLSsoccer.com after Sunday’s match, in which he extended his playoff scoreless streak to 787 minutes. “But at the same time, we need to move forward – get over this and try to be focused on what we need do for the next game.”
They’re just hoping the similarities end here.