Players dropped to their knees. Some most likely exhausted from the 92-minute match, while others were overcome by frustration, disappointment.
For just the second time this season, the Seattle Sounders dropped a match at home.
The first defeat on their home pitch two weeks ago hurt as it came from Seattle’s Northwest rivals, the Portland Timbers.
However, this time, this defeat, well, the sting was a little more bitter as it was given to the Sounders by Sporting Kansas City (7-9-7), which is ranked eight spots below the Sounders (11-7-5) in the Western Conference.
The Sporting defeated the Sounders, 3-2, for the second time this season, marking both its first victory at CenturyLink Field and its first regular-season sweep over Seattle since 2016.
For a team that held an undefeated record for the first nine home matches of the season, the defeat Sunday showed a Seattle team that struggled in the first half to complete scoring drives and was unable to match its opponent’s energetic momentum until the second half. The defeat marks the fifth time this season the Sounders have dropped a game when trailing at halftime.
“You can’t give up three goals and you can’t give up three goals at home,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “You give credit to Sporting KC to come in here at an away venue and come out with three points, but I’m under the belief that we could have had a couple more.”
In May, behind forward Johnny Russell’s hat trick, SKC beat Seattle, 3-2, at Children’s Mercy Park — SKC’s first home victory over Seattle since 2017.
Sunday, SKC was led by midfielder Felipe Gutierrez.
Gutierrez opened scoring in the 12th minute with a goal that flew into the right corner of the net, and Sounders goalie Stefan Frei’s dive was too slow to defend. Gutierrez’s second goal came in the 33rd minute off a penalty kick that launched into the top right corner of the net, far over the hands of Frei.
“When teams score the first goal, they kind of are able to control the tempo, so yes, the first half was challenging,” Schmetzer said.
Whether it was a lack of team connection from Seattle on offense or the high-level aggression from SKC, the Sounders had trouble finding holes in SKC’s defense. With each attempt Seattle made toward the goal, Sporting exhibited twice the effort on defense to stop the attack, forcing balls to fly out of bounds and deflect out to center field.
“I think we created enough chances to get more than two, but look, there is that old saying out there that says, ‘Defense wins championships,’” Schmetzer said. “Some of that is obviously true, but we cannot give up three goals at home to any team. It just can’t happen.”
Seattle scored its first goal less than a minute, 54 seconds to be exact, into the second half from forward Jordan Morris. With a smooth shot into the right corner of the net, Morris’ goal cut Seattle’s deficit to one at 2-1.
“I think we just knew we had to come out with more energy,” Morris said of the second half. “We were playing a little bit flat and when we’re at home, I think we really need to come out flying. I remember we were doing that really well in the beginning of the year, scoring early goals and getting on top of teams, and today we unfortunately didn’t do that and they took advantage of it.”
The small sliver of comfort didn’t last long with SKC’s scoring a little more than 10 minutes later from Erik Hurtado in the 58th minute for a 3-1 advantage.
However, Seattle didn’t show signs of backing off its attack attempts. Morris created another one-goal deficit between the two teams in the 82nd minute. Dribbling up from center field, Morris found himself unguarded, a rare lapse of defense from SKC, and pushed forward, clearing a shot from right outside the penalty area to make the score 3-2.
“We need to make sure our active defending, the things we work on in training, are sharp enough,” Schmetzer said. “We need to make sure we don’t give sloppy balls away that lead to those transition moments. We are going to work on those types of things because those are things that are in our control.”
Despite just being 16 years old, midfielder Danny Leyva saw his fourth start of his Sounders career on Sunday.
In place of Roman Torres, who is sitting out game one of a 10-game suspension, was Xavier Arreaga. The match Sunday marked the defender’s fourth start and sixth match appearance for the season. He ended the match with two shots and two fouls through playing the full match.
Seattle will return to CenturyLink on Saturday to face the New England Revolution at 1 p.m.