It happened, again. The slow reaction after an improbable goal, questionable penalty calls, a lead lost.
The trifecta of woes led to a 3-2 Sounders loss against Orlando City in a muggy match at Exploria Stadium on Wednesday night. The Sounders (10-15-3) remain below the playoff line in the Western Conference and set a franchise record for most losses in a season.
“It’s tough and it keeps happening over and over and over, again,” Sounders midfielder Albert Rusnak told the broadcast crew of also dropping leads and having penalty calls go against them in a loss to Portland last week and draw against the LA Galaxy on Aug. 19.
“This was a must-win,” Rusnak continued. “We’re so many points behind the last playoff spot. We’ve been saying now for the past three months that there’s so many games that we’re going to catch up, we’re going to catch up and I don’t even know what the word is but it’s frustrating to keep losing and keep conceding these goals. … we all have to look in the mirror and we probably should’ve a long time ago. It’s not an easy situation for us players.”
The Lions (12-10-6) were able to snatch the needed win from the Sounders in second-half stoppage time. VAR called for review of a play in the box that awarded City with a goal that initially deflected off Sounders defender Jackson Ragen.
Orlando defender Kyle Smith made the score, the Sounders originally thinking the Lions were offside. Since the ball was deflected off Ragen and didn’t reach the offside player, the goal was allowed.
“It took an unlucky deflection and I’m very disappointed in the play,” Ragen said. “We had a great performance for 45 minutes and the beginning of the second half. The locker room is very frustrated.”
The Sounders built a 2-0 lead in the 52nd minute after forward Jordan Morris made a good run on the right flank to find striker Raul Ruidiaz at the back post. Ruidiaz’s first attempt was deflected in the tight space but got a good bounce on the rebound to pop a shot past Orlando keeper Pedro Gallese.
Instead of learning the lesson of the past weeks, the Sounders were hesitant defensively when the Lions countered to open up their scoring. Midfielder Facundo Torres capitalized on space to set up a long shot for a quick response in the 53rd minute to the Sounders’ two-goal lead. Defender Joao Moutinho had the assist.
Later, Morris was called for a handball that he instantly knew he committed in the 68th minute. Sounders keeper Stefan Frei couldn’t block forward Ercan Kara’s right-footed shot to prevent the equalizer.
Seattle made multiple advances to break the tie and couldn’t convert. Players either crumbled to the turf or looked dumbfounded as Orlando capped its 3-0 second-half run to seal the win.
The Lion, who are fifth in Eastern Conference standings, haven’t played the Sounders since May 2019 due to scheduling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Trainings have been sharp so you just have to keep believing in your process and eventually the ball is going to drop in our favor,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “I could come up with a thousand excuses, but the reality is we’re here right now, we gave up another tough loss.”
Seattle was overflowing with confidence in the first half against Orlando.
Frei isn’t known for his defending of penalty kicks — he entered the match conceding five this season and having only saved seven since entering MLS in 2009. Yet in the 32nd minute, Frei made the right move when defending a shot from the spot to retain a 1-0 lead.
Sounders wingback Jimmy Medranda was called for the foul in the 30th minute for swiping his left leg and stepping on the foot of Orlando midfielder Nicholas Gioacchini in the box. Mauricio Pereyra took the shot but mashed his right-footed attempt in Frei’s hands.
Ragen coolly deflected the rebound, sending Moutinho’s attempt high of goal.
Frei finished the match with five saves.
Rusnak put the Sounders on the board first by beaming a free kick into the net in the 26th minute. The club was able to enter the half without allowing a goal, one of its keys to winning.
But it was false confidence.
“They are emotionally drained,” Schmetzer said of the players. “They put a lot of effort into that game. … It’s tough when you give away penalties all the time. Stef came up with an unbelievably good save on the first one that kept us in the game. The guys were very upbeat at halftime, but you have to make sure that individuals make plays.”
The Sounders waded through a two-hour delay for kickoff due to lighting strikes in the area. It’s the second time Seattle has faced a delay. Against Real Salt Lake in March, it was a near two-hour delay at halftime due to freezing rain and Real scored immediately after play resumed, winning 1-0 in Salt Lake.