A chant of “Whose house?” is understandable from the Sounders FC lately.
Back-to-back home losses and no opening-half goals since May would make any team wonder where they are when history beams a 107-37-34 all-time record at CenturyLink Field with only one stint of three consecutive losses on their turf (2016).
Saturday brought more confusion as unfavorable calls, tense moments and conceding embarrassing goals resulted in a 3-3 tie with New England. Not the way the Sounders wanted to send an announced crowd of 38,826 home.
“At home, we should be the ones dictating tempo and we should not let the game get out of hand,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “The game, for us, has always been more controlled over the past few years and that’s something we need to get back to.”
What appeared to be an uncontrollable move swung the game into harsh critique. The Sounders were up 3-2 when New England forward Cristian Penilla was able to tap a pass behind Seattle’s defense to midfielder Carles Gil. Sounders defender Jordy Delem flanked Gil and when the latter aimed a left-footed cross, Delem couldn’t react quick enough to avoid a handball.
The foul awarded Gil a penalty kick in the 87th minute, which ultimately was the game’s tying goal.
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer, who’s spent a lifetime in the sport, stated old rules would have judged the play ball-to-hand or unintentional. In the modern era with Video Assist Review (VAR), calls are supposed to be clearer. And Saturday’s cost the Sounders two points, creating a true race for second in the Western Conference for Seattle (11-7-5).
“I was running, he (Gil) was, too, and technically, at this position, I couldn’t do anything else,” Delem said. “It was luck that it hit my hand. The referee could’ve not blown the whistle. … I’m disappointed, but you have to learn.”
The game’s preamble was a vow from forward Jordan Morris that a streak of not scoring an opening-half goal would end Saturday afternoon.
Collecting a 50-yard pass from Delem, Morris swept a left-footed cross to Harry Shipp for a goal in the second minute. Shipp’s finish — his first of two in the match — was the first in the opening-half since Raul Ruidiaz’s shot in the 19th minute of a home win against Orlando City SC in May.
New England (9-9-7), which opted for a defensive lineup, wasn’t bothered by Seattle’s fast start.
The Revolution nailed its equalizer off a corner kick in the 27th minute. The score from defender Michael Mancienne was checked by VAR for a foul but none found. Saturday was Mancienne’s return from a plantar fasciitis injury that caused him to miss 13 games.
New England then took a 2-1 lead off a beautiful alley-oop pass from Edgar Castillo just inside the penalty box to a racing Gustavo Bou, who headed the ball into the net in the 35th minute. Castillo’s pass was perfectly placed in between Sounders defenders Xavier Arreaga and Kim Kee-hee and the scoring shot was at an angle keeper Stefan Frei couldn’t reach.
Seattle had a series of near misses from Ruidiaz and midfielder Nico Lodeiro before halftime.
“We played a little bit too open and gifted too many chances,” said Lodeiro via translation from Spanish. “We did not know how to defend our advantage on the board. With that, the other team got confidence. You give an opportunity, they score a goal, they convert, they start to build up their confidence. …we played a little bit like a youth team.”
Seattle appeared to take control of the match in the 65th minute when midfielder Joevin Jones — who was substituted into the game in the 59th minute — got an assist to Shipp for a score.
Lodeiro quickly followed it up with a direct shot that New England keeper Matt Turner couldn’t cover for a save, to take a 3-2 lead.
But the Sounders defense continued to allow the Revolution plays within goal, especially in the second half as it didn’t lessen its offensive pressure even with the lead. New England finished the match with seven shots on target — four in the second half.
“There’s times where obviously you’re creating chances and you’re going to try for the fourth and fifth goal,” said Shipp, who’s scored five goals this season. “We let the game get too stretched. There were, for us, the moments to press and I think we were kind of aimlessly running around trying to create chances. For me, I would have liked us to stay a little bit more tactically disciplined.”
Saturday was the 14th meeting between Seattle and New England — and the only one this season. Seattle is 4-5-5 overall in those matchups.
Left winger Victor Rodriguez was listed as a reserve, his first availability since a July 6 win in Columbus. Rodriguez has been dealing with a hamstring injury since May when the strain occurred 15 minutes into a home win against Houston.
Seasonlong first-choice players Gustav Svensson (hamstring), Kelvin Leerdam (ankle) and Brad Smith (adductor) were unavailable for selection for Seattle.
“This is the worst possible feeling that you could have,” Schmetzer said. “To come back and go ahead (and) then give up a penalty, miss some chances. … it’s not easy to deal with at all.”