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Five things the Sounders can take from CCL loss at Marathon


     Both streaks were bound to end sooner or later for Sounders FC. 

     The current unbeaten streak of nine games (6-0-3) that has Rave Green fans believing again. And the unbeaten streak in non-MLS competition (not including international friendlies) that spanned two seasons, with the Sounders never having lost a U.S. Open Cup match or a CONCACAF Champions League game in club history.

     It's a long trip to Honduras, and CD Marathon is clearly no slouch. The "Green Monster" topped the Sounders 2-1 Thursday night in San Pedro Sula, coming back from a 1-0 deficit to win the opening match for both teams in CCL group play. 

     Marathon showed the experience and mettle of a team that has been in the tournament before. It had a hard time adjusting to the Sounders' pace, particularly Fredy Montero's runs from an attacking wing position, early in the match, and surrendered a 17th-minute goal to Roger Levesque off a cross from Montero and purposeful touch by Blaise N'kufo for the assist. 

    But if Marathon's defense needed to find itself, the offense was in control from the start. Seattle's back line was frequently racing to catch up on runs toward the goal. 

     Orvin Paz created some space with a good move on the Sounders' Osvaldo Alonso, and blasted in a shot past Kasey Keller to tie it. Then, a penalty on Tyrone Marshall in extra time of the first half for kicking a player in the box led to the PK that won it for Marathon. The opportunity was there because of a great long ball played into the box. 

     The Sounders have to take from this loss a few lessons. One, if winning on the road is tough in MLS, it's even more daunting of a task in CCL. Seattle was the only one of four MLS teams to lose the opening game of group play, but it was also the only one to open on the road. Finishing chances, a bugaboo that has often plagued the Sounders from Day One of its existence, is critical in getting some positive result, and Seattle's inability to do that in the second half on Thursday cost them. 

     "We didn't do well in the outset with (Milton) Palacios on the one side and (Randy) Diamond on the other side," coach Sigi Schmid said. "I think we were disjointed offensively. The last 20 minutes, 25 minutes of the game I thought we had very good energy…if you want to see the ball a lot you need to play hard. We need to be better next time."

   Two, the Sounders have to overcome officials' calls against them. When Freddie Ljungberg was there, this was a recurring problem. But the team has to figure that it won't get a lot of calls its way in Mexico or Central America. It has to adapt.

    Speaking of adapting, the Sounders have to adjust to playing in cavernous and near-empty stadiums. Even home games in CCL don't figure to be packed, but at least those fans that are there will give Qwest Field some atmosphere. Not so on the road, at least if you go by the Marathon game. 

    Four, Schmid might have to put aside his fierce loyalty to defender Tyrone Marshall and go with someone who can keep up with fleet attacking players. Marshall has the ability to recover when beaten but there's a reason that Patrick Ianni has become the starter at one central defender spot. On the penalty he was called for that led to a PK goal that ultimately cost the Sounders the match Thursday, Marshall was slow to clear the ball and while perhaps he didn't mean to kick Randy Diamond, he was clearly not expecting Diamond's hustle. 

     "We all learn from experiences. It's a long trip, it's hot, humid, we are on a very slow pitch and we just couldn't figure it out," Keller said. "We have got five more games left in this competition and there's nothing to fear playing these teams. We can line up with these teams quite comfortably."

   Five, and lastly, Schmid must keep adjusting for all the travel and busy game schedule. He has to keep the team mentally and physically sharp with at least five more CCL games, one U.S. Open Cup match and quite possibly another, and an international friendly to fit between the remaining nine MLS matches. And the MLS playoffs are looking more and more likely every week. 


  1. I like posting late in the thread because it allows me to vent without having anyone actually read it… I’m not a Sounders fan, but I definitely do support MLS teams who are fighting in the CCL. A couple of things I need to mention based on last night’s performance.

    First – James Riley was painful to watch. He’s the Dane Richards of Seattle. Once he collected the ball about 40-50 yards from goal he would just pump a long ball (usually a poor one) into the box. That was about 75% of his production. He would kill off good spells of possession by wasting those balls.

    HOWEVER… once Nate Jaqua entered the match, then at least the Sounders had a chance of winning those balls and creating some havoc. Nkufo is old and slow. And I’m not even referring to his sprint speed, but his feet don’t seem quick enough. I thought he was poor overall. He may be a finisher, and yes he contributed a nice (somewhat botched) flick for the first goal, but I don’t see him making much of an impact. Sounders will be happy to have Jaqua back. He was unlucky to score from the tight angle and he impressed, helping the Sounders to create better chances in the final 20 minutes of that match. He was a big lift. I’ll cheer for Jaqua’s success because he seems like a good dude and works hard to contribute.

    Montero is obviously skilled but a little too selfish. But you could see his understanding with Jaqua is a lot better than Nkufo (understandable since Nkufo just signed on). If Montero and Jaqua are clicking, then Seattle should have a solid end of season run.

    Marathon weren’t that impressive and I think the Sounders definitely had the capability to win that game. Marathon had speed and that was the killer. A lazy play by Marshall cost them. It’s a tough call to take if you’re the Sounders, but I can see it going either way. It’s unfortunate that Seattle gifted them that right before halftime.

    C’MON MLSers! Let’s see some CCL success!

  2. One of the problems is that the Sounders arent a “top club.” CCL berths are given to the MLS Cup Champ, MLS Runner Up, and Supporters shield winner. These three berths show who the top teams are while the US Open cup berth just shows who took that individual competition more serious.

  3. Speaking of FSC, what is wrong with the director of production? They do a terrible job.

    Basic rules that need to be followed are: Don’t cut away from live action when ball is in play ever!!! Wait until natural stoppages of play (such as corner kick, goal kick, foul, sub) to show replays. Try to keep replays to 4-7 seconds, and get rid of that stupid CONCACAF trophy screen wipe transition. Stop cutting to cameras that are about to pan out or go out of focus because it makes me sick. Watch and pay attention to the game. Don’t show a close-up of the coaches every 2 minutes just because. Some crowd and stadium shots would be nice to show the environment in which the players are playing. That’s it, it’s not too hard.

  4. There’ll always be haters, that’s just the way it is. Hater women marry hater men and have hater kids.

    It’s a generalization and stupid to characterize one person based on a group of people that way. And you’re sitting there worrying about what these idiots think? If you’re a Sounders fan, then be a Sounders fan. Support your team, and eff those that try to tear it down. Do you think Cowboy fans care the Redskin/Eagle fans hate them? Hell no, they don’t give a flying hoot. And that really pisses off those Redskin/Eagle fans even more. Hah!

  5. Who cares what they do “across the pond”,dont watch if the time wasting and dives bother you that much,and if MLS teams play in the copa libertadores the bias is turned all the way up to 11.

  6. Not really “irritating”. More “confusing”.

    I must have missed the hatred.

    I doubt that there is too much jealousy for Seattle. In general, I think that many of us find their fans tend to be very annoying.

    That is very different than “jealousy”.

  7. FSC is limited. From what I know, they did not have a person on site for the game, so there might be some uncertainty in the data they receive about starting lineups, etc. They had their guys mic’ed up sitting in a studio in LA watching the CONCACAF feed from monitors.

  8. I dont get the hatred toward the Sounder’s fan.

    Not like there are a ton of Sounder’s fans posting on this site, to the point where they get irratating.

    Only one this to conclude, and this WILL be irratating….


  9. I was highly unimpressed with Marathon. Their defense had more holes than Swiss cheese (sorry, Nkufo), and yet time after time Sounders could not muster that final pass and finish. Perhaps I am just still that naive after witnessing year-after-year disappointments from MLS clubs in this competition, but I expect our “top” clubs to be able to beat clubs from Honduras…even away. Maybe I am just naive, looking at what Young Boys did at home against Spurs, but when when a team like Seattle appears to have the edge in both talent and organization, I expect more. I expect more overlapping runs, I expect more passes to connect, I expect more chances to be finished. I guess I am just that naive.

  10. Come on Josh, I think all of us can accept that CONCACAF officials are ridiculous and it is something that teams need to adjust to. Including the blatant dives, time wasting, and such that occurred in the RSL game the other night. It happens, and teams need to adjust and not get overly frustrated.

  11. Oh man, I’m like 0 for three in here today. My fact checking department will be fired right now! The pitch in Chicago had the same look as the one in NE, so I assumed wrong! I guess this supports the pro-polypropylene crowd, they say at least plastic fields are consistent.

  12. I agree that the Revs surface is not ideal, but the sod on Wednesday night was in Chicago. Reis said he slipped trying to move to save what turned out to be the winning goal.

  13. This article mentions a long trip as a disadvantage…but imagine the one that Monterrey, Marathon and Saprissa will take to Seattle. Do you think those teams can afford to travel on a direct charter flight? Most MLS teams have a huge advantage in that they have ownership with extra money to spend on their players. (Perhaps Monterrey will have some cash to spend too, though?)
    I suspect Marathon might have a few lay-overs on their trip to Seattle. Overall, Seattle did OK but lacked punch. Ref was good in my opinion…anyone pointing fingers at ref is conveniently ignoring the lackluster attacking threat posed by Sounders.

  14. You are absolutely right…the lack of pace on the outside last night had our team continually playing through the middle and led to a whole lot of turnovers including marathon’s first goal. I know Levesque had the goal last night, but he has no business playing outside mid or frankly any other position on the field. I would much rather have had Montano or Estrada on the field to give us the speed we desperately lacked.

  15. The Sounders simply never adapted to the surface. I get it, it’s slow. So, what can you do about that? Over the top works well because you can run onto it before it ever gets near the endline. And there was a ton of space to be had in the corners of the attaching third.

    The PK call was questionalble, but I had no arguement. It was all Tyrone. He expected the ball to get to Keller quickly, but, the surface slowed it down, and Marshall didn’t know where the attacker was.

    Nkufo looked very slow out there. It seemed Jaqua actually provided a lot more than the DP. I’m not saying Jaqua is better overall, but he was last night.

    As for FSC, I really just can’t take it. Do these announcers do any research? The starting line-up showed Levesque up top with Montero on the left. They kept saying Marshall was the starting CB, no, that would be Parke & Ianni. And Hurtado will be in for Ianni when he comes back. As for the other injured players; yes, Zakuani is important, as it Evans… maybe. But Vanegas has lost his spot, Noonan lost his spot and Nyassi is just filling in for awhile until Fernandez gets his fitness.

  16. Refereeing had nothing to do with the loss last night. Marshall earned every little bit of that penalty call by lazily jogging back to clear the ball and then leg sweeping Diamond after he got around him. The fact that Marshall didn’t see Diamond coming is more an indictment of his lazy play than an excuse for the foul.

    And on the subject of empty stadiums, Seattle’s already earned results @ Chivas USA, @ FC Dallas and @ Colorado so I don’t think that’s a problem for them. 🙂

  17. yes, the pk call affected the outcome of the play but it didn’t effect the play of the sounders like it would have in the past when Ljungberg and Rieley would spend more time argueing with the ref than playing the game. Jose said they need to get over bad calls, well I didn’t see them complaining or pouting on the field, I saw them come back in the second half and dominate possesion and chances, they just got unlucky and hit the post twice.

  18. “I really like the sounders chances with their LATIN style”

    remember that BS posted in the preview of their match up?

    Can we get off the whole ‘Latin’ style thing, the samba BS.

    Good touch, good first touch, good passing, good vision, good off the ball movement.

    Brazil can dance on the ball all they want but these things are what make them good, just like they make Netherlands, and Germany good (who aren’t Latin)

  19. I started watching in the 4th min. After numerous references to the pitch, I tried to Google information, I guess I failed at finding the correct info. I looked at the CCL web site and checked which field it was on and then looked up the field and the article said grass. It looked like it had been mowed in a circular pattern? Is it a plastic/grass hybrid? Either way, I would rather watch and or play on that field in Honduras than the ultra fast field in Seattle. I like the Sounders and they undoubtedly have the best atmosphere the MLS has to offer, I just think it would be better if they played on a grass field.

    The field at Robinson has the same problem as with Qwest I guess. The major tenant is a Football team and what they say goes. Hopefully the minor league college team that the Houston City Council forced on the Dynamo won’t make much of an impact on their new stadium. Good luck to the Sounders in the remainder of the CCL!

  20. Yea, the officiating was consistent at least. The ref called EVERYTHING — every little bump or accidently collision. His whistle worked overtime for sure. From 70′ to 78′, there were only fouls, feigned injuries and substitutions. The only thing I couldn’t figure out was how he was calling the fouls on ariel challenges. That, I was confused on.

  21. CONCACAF CL will be a joke until MLS teams just embarrass Central American/Mexican sides to the point where they show respect.

    Can you imagine what would happen over the pond if a UEFA CL team time wasted like the other night, or if officials were so biased that it made you sick?

  22. But those calls are “typical” during a game – and by typical I mean every game sees you getting bad calls against you, and it goes both ways.

    The officiating was good last night, not great, but better than I’ve seen it in this competition.

    The other points were decent but not really a whole blog post’s worth.

  23. Lets see questionable PK call didn’t affect the game other than it was the winning goal, although to be honest I can see why it was called. Ref not calling the keeper for stting the ball on the ground and picking it back up about 4 yards from the goal.

    Even with those calls the Sounders had plenty of chances to tie the game.

    The ref wasn’t the only reason, but those were two pretty big decisions.

  24. Just in case you didn’t notice that was a “plastic” field for the game last night.

    When Seattle plays Houston in October I am sure we will be wishing the game was on a plastic field because if it is anything close to what it was for the post season last year I will take plastic.

  25. all they need to do is finish chances and stop playing Marshal, he is old and done, every loss has his footprint on it. You got those two right but the rest is bs. didn’t look to me like the refs call affected their game so don’t see how that was an excuss and I don’t see how the empty stadium on the road was an issue. concentrate on what you can change and make the right choices.

  26. Ives, Thanks for not adding #6, getting used to playing on real grass. The announcers last night kept bringing it up like the surface was horrible,”the surface, the surface, OMG!” Well, to me that pitch beats the hell out of the plastic pitch in Seattle. Speaking of horrible fields, how about the one at NE? I didn’t watch the match but I saw the highlights. Clumps of sod all over by the end. I noticed that the field was in bad shape when I watched the Dynamo play there last week. Looked like a “puff” of green dust appears under each footstep. Pitiful.

  27. I enjoyed reading the piece. The point about learning to play in the cavernous stadiums did give me a chuckle.

    As far as managing the challenges of a congested fixture, Seattle just needs to man up like the other MLS clubs and Puerto Rico Islanders…

  28. This article is full of childish excuses for the Sounders loss. You bring up very good points Jose regarding the difficulty of away games in CCL, the defensive adjustments and juggling a busy schedule. But overcoming officiating calls and having to adjust to playing in cavernous stadiums? Really?


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