In retrospect, Saturday night's match against the New England Revolution had all the markings of a trap game for Seattle Sounders FC.
The Sounders were coming off two emotional wins in the past week — a 2-1 winner against Freddie Ljungberg’s Chicago Fire and a 3-1 US Open Cup semifinal triumph over Chivas USA. Then they had to fly cross-country to take on a Revolution team that has struggled in 2010.
Perhaps it was a combination of tired legs, poor defense or a lack of composure. Most likely, it was a cocktail of all three as the visitors fell apart in the final 30 minutes of a 3-1 loss to the Revs.
WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
New England, one of the lowest-scoring squads in Major League Soccer, exploded for three goals in 10 minutes. In the postmatch comments, players and coaches from both teams believed Shalrie Joseph’s escape of a red card was the match’s pivotal moment.
With Seattle holding a 1-0 lead, replays showed Joseph forcefully slapping Sounders defender Patrick Ianni across the face and neck. Even though referee Silviu Petrescu appeared to be looking directly at the play, he did not take any action. Adding to the consternation for Seattle was a seemingly soft yellow against Fredy Montero a few seconds after the eventual restart.
Most would consider Joseph’s action a red card offense, even if it had been precipitated by Ianni stepping on the Revs player’s foot. After the match, the Sounders wondered how it could go unpunished. The incident caused Seattle’s focus to waver and New England pushed through for three unanswered goals.
“I thought we were OK, until we’re up 1-0 and the altercation occurred between Shalrie and Patrick Ianni,” said head coach Sigi Schmid after the match. “At that point, I thought we lost our composure a little bit and gave away a couple of goals that we shouldn’t have given away. Obviously the game turned and they scored their chances and the game was over.”
“It lifted us a little bit, if anything,” said New England’s Chris Tierney. “Shalrie doesn’t go down easy, so you know something went down.”
Seattle’s goal-scorer Steve Zakuani agreed.
“I think that was probably the turning point with Shalrie and Patrick,” said Zakuani, who scored his eighth goal on the season. “There was like a five-, six-minute delay and we just scored and after that, I think we maybe – as our coach told us – lost our composure a little bit. We tried to get it back, but they just really built off that.”
The Revolution scored twice in the three minutes that followed the incident to take the lead. They added a third through Kheli Dube’s excellent strike on 81 minutes. Goalkeeper Kasey Keller called the stretch “the worst 10 minutes we’ve played all year.”
With the loss, Seattle fall back down to .500 on the season (9-9-5). A seven-game unbeaten streak also falls by the wayside for the Sounders, who will take Monday off before returning to practice on Tuesday. It’s a short week for the Sounders, who host Real Salt Lake in a nationally televised match on Thursday night.
The Sounders are ready to move on. In the final analysis, Schmid attributed the loss to a lack of focus. At the time of the Ianni-Joseph altercation, New England had already started to build momentum. Schmid didn’t think his team did enough to nullify that momentum.
“Today I think we had a few lapses and it’s just a case of we let them carry too much momentum,” Schmid said. “You could just see their spirit and confidence building and we didn’t respond to that.”