Despite playing a team tied for the MLS lead in goals surrendered, the Sounders again couldn’t cash in several opportunities and fell 2-1 to the New England Revolution Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA. Seattle’s third consecutive loss (4-7-1) kept it winless on the road this season and in ninth place in the 10-team Western Conference.
The defeat to one of the Eastern Conference’s weakest sides (3-4-7) was made more aggravating by a game-tying penalty kick in the 23rd minute.
A phantom handball was called by referee Fotis Bazakos on Erik Friberg, who was struck in the abdomen by a point-blank clearance from teammate Zach Scott. The ball apparently nicked Friberg’s arm as he attempted to protect himself. The Revs’ Lee Nguyen converted, the fourth PK scored on Seattle in six attempts. The Sounders have none.
“That was an absolute joke,” Scott said on the post-game telecast. “The referee made a mistake, and he knows it.”
Bazakos told a pool reporter after the game: “From my position, I observed Friberg’s arms raised away from his body. Then I observed his arm making contact with the ball.”
Sounders GK Stefan Frei had a clear view of the play and suggested Bazakos had it backward.
“I think Erik tries to actually move his hands in,” he said. “The opposite of what you would say would happen on a PK, when you know you move your hands out and out of the way and then you influence the play. At this point, the ball is going to hit him straight in the chest and puts him in here.
“But, it’s excuses. He called it and we have to live with it.”
The freak call negated the earliest score in the Sounders season. In the seventh minute, New England GK Bobby Shuttleworth punched a shot away from goal when he could have caught it. The ball bounded to the top of the area and the feet of Aaron Kovar, who sidestepped a defender and struck a low ball that became the first goal of his MLS career.
The decider came in the 79th minute, when substitute Femi Hollinger-Janzen fell down with possession, then scrambled to his feet and fired a grounder from 22 yards that somehow found an alley past three defenders and under the outstretched left hand of diving Frei. The Sounders fell to 1-4-1 at Gillette.
Already shorthanded with absences of Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez to international duty and Chad Marshall and Oalex Anderson to injury, the Sounders lost another key operative. In the 37th minute, center back and captain Brad Evans was felled by a point-blank ball to the back of his head from Kei Kamara.
Evans crumpled and laid prone for more than a minute before getting to his feet and walking slowly to the locker room. That forced into the game rookie Tony Alfaro for the first action of his rookie season.
The Sounders’ attack generated 10 shots, but only two on goal as the absence of Dempsey and Valdez proved costly. Leading scorer Jordan Morris had a couple of good chances but couldn’t convert.
“The game turned on the penalty,” said coach Sigi Schmid. “Once we scored the goal, we took our foot off the gas a little bit. In the second half, we had our chances but didn’t possess the ball as we had to.”
The Sounders continue a three-game road trip to the East with a match at 5 p.m. Wednesday in the nation’s capital against D.C. United.