The Sounders fell 3-2 to Portland following a wild second half in which the teams combined for five goals, marking Seattle’s fourth defeat in eight matches in the traditionally friendly confines of CenturyLink this season.
They’re now 3-9-3 overall and still just one point clear of the Western Conference basement. While they still have time to make a run, as well as a shiny new attacking piece in new striker Raul Ruidiaz, head coach Brian Schmetzer said his team is also aware that the hole they’re in is in danger of becoming insurmountable.
“The current state of affairs is not good,” Schmetzer said after Saturday’s loss. “We have to be realistic. It’s not good. We’ve really put ourselves in a hole. The work we do during the week to prepare for games, the effort that I think the guys show, I think all of that is there. But at some point, we as coaches need to take responsibility for what we do and players on the field need to take responsibility for what they do.”
Losing to a heated rival on your home turf is always a tough pill to swallow, but the manner in which Seattle lost on Saturday was especially discouraging. Seattle rallied for crucial equalizing goals twice in the second half – one from Victor Rodriguez and one from Chad Marshall – only to see Portland retake it both times. Timbers center back Larrys Mabiala was the one who found the dagger, scoring the game-winning tally with a 74th-minute header off a corner kick.
It was Mabiala’s second set-piece tally of the game, with his heroics deflating what had been a festive atmosphere at CenturyLink, where Ruidiaz was unveiled to Sounders fans in a pregame ceremony.
“This brings us right back down to earth,” Schmetzer said. “This is a really, really tough loss.”
While it certainly had the feel of a season-sinking result, midfielder Cristian Roldan maintained that it’s imperative to continue to approach the situation with a level head. If there’s any team that knows that second-half runs are possible, Roldan said, it’s the Sounders, who overcame slow starts in each of the past two seasons to make it to MLS Cup – winning once.
“We’ve done it before,” Roldan said. “A lot of teams would probably count themselves out at this point or hang their head, but the last two years have been second-half seasons.
“We understand that it’s not impossible to come back. Obviously it’s tough and you have to rely on other teams losing. But also, [it’s about] getting into a rhythm. This is MLS. You win three games and it seems like you’re right back in it. So, you have to be positive in that way. But I think the hope is still there, because we’ve done it before.”