SEATTLE – A clean shot here, a deflection there and, realistically, the Seattle Sounders could have walked out of the third consecutive First Kick opener at Qwest Field with a third resounding victory.
But the LA Galaxy got the one goal they needed Tuesday night for a 1-0 victory, leaving Seattle staring down the barrel of a fifth loss to the Galaxy in their last five MLS meetings.
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“They got the goal, we didn’t,” Sounders winger Steve Zakuani told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “I don’t know what it is, we just can’t seem to beat them at the moment. We’re going to have to figure that out at some point.”
Some point won’t come again until July 4, the one-year anniversary of Seattle’s 3-1 spanking by the Galaxy in Southern California. Add that to last May’s 4-0 “Refund Game” whipping at Qwest and two losses over two legs in last fall’s MLS Cup Playoffs, and LA have an 11-2 combined score line over their last five meetings.
Sigi Schmid says that sticks in the craw of his team, and hopefully it’s something that will drive them forward.
"Sometimes you have a bogey team," the Sounders coach said of the Galaxy, "a team that for some reason, it just doesn’t work for you and, right now, they’re that team for us.
“There’s a lot of games between now and July and we’ve got to focus on those other games. Our guys are pissed, our guys are disappointed – especially since it’s the opening game of the season and we haven’t lost an opener before.”
The disappointment on Tuesday night stems from the fact that, for the most part, Seattle played LA evenly and didn’t come close to “getting dominated,” as more than one Sounders player admitted had been the case in the past against the Galaxy.
Seattle put six of their 10 shots on Josh Saunders’ frame, connected two-thirds of their passes and, most surprisingly, dominated possession against their Western Conference rivals with 57 percent of the time on the ball.
Oswaldo Alonso, O'Brian White and Roger Levesque missed quality chances that could have put three on the board against LA. But the Galaxy were the only ones to convert a chance, thanks to Juninho’s rocket in the 58th minute.
“Today, there was no reason to lose this game,” said Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller. “It’s just one of those things. One goal is the difference. We had the opportunities. On another day, maybe we score three and they score none. ... I don’t know if we did enough to comfortably win game. We definitely could have gotten something out of this game.”
Wizened Keller does have the right perspective, though, admitting that sometimes, teams just own you. The 20-year professional recalled a stretch during his four seasons at Tottenham Hotspur when crosstown London rivals Chelsea had an unbeaten streak of more than a dozen games against his Spurs.
“It was just one of those clubs where they just have your number,” he said. “Other teams it seems like every time you play them, you have their number. It just seems like at the moment, LA has our number regardless of how poorly we play or how well we play.”
With July 4 nearly half a season away, the Sounders must look ahead to another daunting task: traveling to New York to face the defending Eastern Conference-topping Red Bulls in just four days, arguably the most brutal opening slate of any team in the league. And that’s what they must focus on, said Schmid.
“I’ve said before this game, there’s going to be 33 games left after this one and there’s still a lot of points out there,” he said, “so we’ve got to lick our wounds, go forward and take care of the points as they go.”