CARSON, Calif. – An early pattern has developed into a disturbing trend.
The Sounders are getting fouled — a lot. And not just the stars.
Coming into the year, Seattle had never been fouled more than 23 times in a game over five MLS seasons. Seven weeks in, the team has already eclipsed that number three times in 2014, none more than the 26 suffered in Saturday’s 2-1 comeback win against Chivas USA.
Midfielder Brad Evans said the realization has painfully set in that the behavior looks likely to last.
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“It’s going to be part of the game,” he said, “and we have to play through it. I thought that we handled it pretty well. … We kept our composure, kept our heads.”
Clint Dempsey had been a popular target in previous weeks, but it was Obafemi Martins in the opposition’s crosshairs at the StubHub Center. Martins was hacked down in seven instances, which tied a franchise record and equaled the amount of fouls received by the entire Chivas USA team.
Coach Sigi Schmid said such repetitive fouling should have led to a red card for the hosts, perhaps more so than the ejection that was given in the second half to Marco Delgado for a dangerous tackle.
Martins, for his part, declined to blame referee Ismail Elfath for the rough treatment.
“The fact that I’m OK means that there is nothing to complain about,” the forward said. “I don’t like to talk about the referees, because they’re doing their job.”
Schmid, though, lobbied on his behalf: “Nobody gets a yellow for repetitive fouling on Oba? That’s amazing to me.”
The Sounders were fouled 25 times apiece in home games Week 1 and 2 against Kansas City and Toronto, respectively. That rate has continued, and Seattle is on pace to be fouled about 700 times this season — an alarming figure that would obliterate the team record of 438 in 2012.
Evans said early yellow cards from the referee could be a solution: “Then it settles down not just that guy but the rest of the team.”
The worthiness of Chivas USA’s penalty kick was in hot debate after the game, but there was another reason some felt the goal wasn’t deserved.
Forward Erick Torres, who converted the PK, appeared to stop, if not go backward, early in his run-up to the kick, which is against the spirit of FIFA rules (though not officially against the letter of the law).
“That’s why after the PK I actually ran up to (the referee) and told him it doesn’t really matter at what point in the run-up he does it,” said goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
Pineda popular with Chivas fans
Dempsey is always a showcase player on the road due to his standing with the U.S. national team, but Seattle’s Gonzalo Pineda was particularly popular with the Chivas fans.
The midfielder, of course, played for Mexico’s Chivas de Guadalajara for four years, not to mention the Mexican national team from 2004 to 2008.
“They are giving me still too much love. … That feels good,” Pineda said.
• The Sounders kicked off the MLS Reserve League season Sunday with a 3-2 win against Chivas USA. Seattle’s goals came from Tristan Bowen (an ex-Chivas player), Chad Barrett and an own goal.
• Sounders FC’s Sean Okoli, a homegrown player from Federal Way, has been called up to training camp with the U.S. U-21 national team in Carson, Calif. Also invited is academy alum Jordan Morris, a Mercer Island native playing collegiately at Stanford. Ex-Sounder Kasey Keller will coach the goalkeepers.
• Defender Chad Marshall was unwittingly credited with his first assist of the season Saturday when a Clint Dempsey cross deflected off his hand to Lamar Neagle en route to Seattle’s opening goal. “Shoot, I’ll take it,” Marshall said with a laugh. “Why not?”
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @joshuamayers.