SEATTLE – Sigi Schmid knows Steven Lenhart well, having coached him for a year when both were with the Columbus Crew. So the Seattle Sounders coach did his best to prepare his team for what they’d face on Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes.
It really wasn’t enough.
Lenhart was able to draw a decisive penalty as the Earthquakes won 1-0 at CenturyLink Field. It came on a controversial call in the 24th minute, when Lenhart collided with Marc Burch on a free kick, setting up Chris Wondolowski’s fourth goal of the season.
“That’s Steven’s game,” Schmid told reporters postgame. “That’s what he does all the time. He does it all the time and then afterward he apologizes. So that’s his thing.”
Burch was quick to take the blame for the penalty, even if he didn’t necessarily agree with the call, and was mostly kicking himself for letting Lenhart get the best of him in that situation.
HIGHLIGHTS: SEA vs SJ
“It’s 100 percent my fault,” said Burch, explaining that he felt he had been fouled by Lenhart earlier. “I should be bigger than that, better than that. He’s a player that looks exactly for that the entire season and he got one. I’ve seen him enough. It’s the same tricks every single game he plays.”
Whether the penalty was warranted or not, Lenhart did his job effectively. In addition to the penalty, he made his presence known throughout his 67 minutes by harassing the Sounders defenders and generally creating havoc.
His night ended, appropriately enough, after he was shown a yellow card for time wasting.
Of course, Lenhart wasn’t the Sounders’ only problem. For much of the first half they looked disjointed and did not do enough with the chances they did get. Their best first-half chance was an open header from Fredy Montero off a feed from Osvaldo Alonso, but the forward’s attempt went just over the crossbar.
The Sounders did have the better of possession in the second half, holding the ball about 63 percent of the time. They produced 12 second-half shots and forced Jon Busch into five saves – the biggest of the night coming on a Montero attempt in the 84th minute to preserve the shutout and leave Schmid ruing the missed opportunities.
“We’re a team that’s confident in our offensive abilities and tonight I thought we created chances,” Schmid said. “If we hadn’t created anything in the second half I’d be a lot more worried, or a lot more disappointed, but we just talked about keeping better possession in their half of the field, making sure that we did a better job of making them defend.”
Chances or no, the Sounders end their season-opening three-game home stand by being shut out for the first time in any of their five competitive matches this season, and dropping to 2-1-0 in the league.
“Of course we all wanted to start 3-0,” Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said. “We’ve shown how we can react after the ugly game in Torreón [a 6-1 loss to Santos Laguna], so we have to keep working and keep our heads up high. It’s just one loss.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.