This was not the kind of start the Seattle Sounders dreamed about.
They lost two starters to injury in the days before the match. They lost another to a red card in the first half. Finally, they lost another player to injury in the closing minutes.
And they allowed a fluke goal, which doomed them in a 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City before a crowd of 39,525 on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
“It is one of the lower (opening days): one red card, one injury, a loss at home,” Sounders forward Nelson Valdez said through a translator. “But at the same time, we are professionals, we’re grown-ups. We need to come back.”
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Seattle opened the season in an unexpected hole with right back Tyrone Mears unavailable due to a quad strain and midfielder Erik Friberg out while undergoing concussion protocol. Their absences moved two second-year players into the starting lineup: Oniel Fisher at right back and Cristian Roldan at midfield.
Fisher’s promotion became crucial in the 42nd minute when he produced a two-footed tackle that drew a straight red card.
Playing a man down, Seattle managed to preserve the scoreless draw into the 73rd minute, when Kansas City defender Nuno Andre Coelho sent a ball skidding past goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
“Obviously, a big error on my part,” Frei said. “Such is the life of a goalkeeper: You make a mistake and the whole team pays for it. I saw the ball coming to the right. It had a bit of a bend and it kind of bounced in front of me. Maybe it didn’t bounce as high as I thought it was going to. But I’ve got to save it — there’s nothing to say, really.”
Nothing except this:
“The battle with that mistake isn’t over for me,” Frei added. “This is where the hard work starts, to kind of mentally get over that mistake. I think only goalkeepers understand the things that go through your mind and the battle you have in your mind when something like this happens. Unfortunately it does happen. ... The question is how can you fight this mistake, and bounce back from it, and make sure come next game you’re good to go.”
Seattle dominated the first 20 minutes, including a breakaway shot in the ninth minute that rookie Jordan Morris launched far over the target, and a free kick in the 26th minute that veteran Clint Dempsey couldn’t get past a leaping Tim Melia, the Kansas City goalkeeper.
In the second half, Andreas Ivanschitz sizzled another one that Melia tapped over the crossbar.
“If (Morris) buries that chance, that changes the game a little bit for us,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “We had a couple of others off the post, crossbar; (their) goalkeeper made some great saves for them. … So some opportunities were there.”
Yet, the equalizing goal never came.
In the final minutes, centerback Brad Evans came down hard on his left shoulder and had to leave the pitch. Schmid estimated that Evans would be out for about a week — depending mostly on his pain threshold — and that Mears and Friberg are expected back before the Sounders return to action Saturday at Real Salt Lake.
“There are 33 games left,” Schmid said. “… It’s just a blip. Journeys aren’t always easy. Obviously, this journey for this year — 2016 — has started out a little bit rocky. We’ve got to get back onto the road and push forward.
“I know that sounds like a lot of little clichés … but it’s all about you’ve got to continue to work. You learn more from little setbacks and you grow more in character from things like this. This team is definitely capable of learning, and they do learn, and I think they definitely have to character to push through this setback.”