Dissecting Seattle’s 2012 MLS Playoff conference final loss

What went wrong?

The Sounders fans booed and hissed him. Alonso gave him an earful. But Mark Geiger’s whistle was final.

Neither the ire of 43,000, nor Alonso’s red card could bring back Seattle’s dreams of MLS Cup glory. His whistle was final.

Geiger’s calls were a bitter pill to swallow on Sunday night. The replays show Eddie Johnson was not offside when he scored his 11th minute goal that was called back.

At least half of the soccer pundits I’ve heard say that Adam Johansson did not intentionally handle the ball that led to Robbie Keane’s penalty. The call broke the Sounders back. I just want a lesson in how to call a handball.

Despite this, Mark Geiger didn’t make the Sounders lose. They have no one to blame but themselves.

Why did they lose? Every Sounders fan is asking that question…and the truth is, it’s complicated. I thought I should way in on what I believe are the main factors.

As you read, you may notice that this article is disproportionately focused on leg 1 of the tie.

There’s a reason.

This series was all but lost before the return leg in Seattle. It’s hard to come back from 3-0…even at home.

Sigi  What Went Wrong?

This series was all but lost before the return leg in Seattle.

Sigi ditched the arrow…for 90 minutes

It’s a rare moment that we can look at our esteemed coach and ask him what he was doing. He usually makes the right calls, but last week in Los Angeles he didn’t.

The Sounders have been playing in Sigi’s arrow for the last four years (4 defenders, 2 deep lying box-to-box mids, attacking wingers, a withdrawn forward and a target man). They’re built around it.

But, for some unknown reason, Sigi abandoned it in leg 1.

Contrarians have argued that the team was playing on short rest. They’re right, but the argument doesn’t hold any water.

Sigi had the personnel to play a forward alongside Fredy Montero. Both Sammy Ochoa or David Estrada were well rested.

He didn’t.

We all know what happened next.

The idea that the diminutive relatively slow Montero could act as Seattle’s pressure outlet while facing Omar Gonzalez and Tommy Meyer is laughable. This isn’t a knock on Montero’s skill or effort. He just isn’t a target forward.

The forward situation, and the midfield’s inability to maintain possession, meant that whenever they cleared the ball they were facing another wave of Galaxy attackers within minutes.

Los Angeles has too much attacking quality to not score in that situation.

Some may argue that hindsight is 20-20. My response would be: “Why would you ever try an experimental formation in the Conference Finals?”

The squad didn’t show urgency until their backs were against the wall

My wife and I seem to always have a conversation with the people in our section at CenturyLink. We talk about how the first 15 minutes of a match are nerve-wracking because the team doesn’t seem to wake up until about minute 13.

This playoff series was worse.

Not much needs to be said about this point. Plain and simple, the team didn’t wake up until after the first 90 minutes were over.

By then it was too late.

Is this a character problem? Is it a preparation problem? I don’t know. You can’t recover if you play the first 90 minutes of an 180 minute match half-asleep.

Mauro Rosales left his team hanging

When the team needed him most, Mauro Rosaleswasn’t there…for the second year in a row.

Mauro Rosales

When the team needed him most, Mauro Rosales wasn’t there

The 2011 and 2012 editions of Sounders FC have been built around our Argentine captain. The team depends on his attacking flair and creativity. Eddie Johnson thrives on his pinpoint crosses.

Look at the stats.

When Rosales is on the field Seattle’s much more likely to win.

This series proved the point again, and should make Seattle seriously think about whether Mauro is worth keeping around 1 more year. Look at the facts, he’s only played 99 of a possible 540 playoff minutes in his 2 years with the team.

Not coincidentally, the rest of the team was outscored 6-0 in 180 of those minutes.

Let’s put Rosales’ fragile body aside for a moment.

On Sunday in Seattle, Rosales had to be convinced to come in and play by Sigi Schmid. Where’s the passion? You shouldn’t have to convince your captain to go into the most important match in team history, especially if he was able to train for more than 60 minutes before the opening kick.

Playing 1 out of every 5 playoff minutes isn’t good enough for a marquee Designated Player. Especially when your team is facing Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, and David Beckham.

Where do we go from here?

The pain has begun to pass. It’s now a dull just a dull aching. This playoff series loss was just another reminder that the Sounders aren’t quite the best.

Adrian Hanauer and Sigi Schmid must demand more from their squad this offseason. They must make changes. They must build the best Sounders team yet.

Here’s to hoping that the season that starts in just 4 short months won’t end with us watching another team celebrate on your field.

Good isn’t good enough any more.

I want to be the best.


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About Josh Dougherty

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