‘Hand’ing over victory — Sounders season comes to bitter end

If it’s a handball then call it that way, if it’s not a handball then call it that way — but I’ll be damned if the MLS refs call these two differently in what may have been the difference this series for the Sounders.

Recovering from gun wounds after shooting themselves in the foot one week ago, Seattle Sounders FC once again put forward a gutsy playoff performance at home only to fall short — again.

The story had already been told once — a year ago in fact — when Real Salt Lake handed the Sounders a 3-0 thumping in the first leg of a MLS Cup Playoff tilt. And like tonight the Sounders fought valiantly to score twice and bring the game within a strike of becoming level.

But as with any broken record, there’s bound to be repeats. Although the tune tonight sounded a little different. The result was a 2-1 fixture win for the good guys but a 4-2 aggregate victory for the Hollywood crew.

We’ll talk about the handball in a bit, but first and foremost credit needs to be given to the outstanding play of the Rave Green in the opening moments of the match. Down 3-0 Seattle needed an early goal and Eddie Johnson delivered just moments after he was denied a goal by one of many poor calls on the night. (rant)And to those fans shouting that Seattle would have been up 2-0 if the first goals was allowed — shut up — EJ’s actual goal came seconds later in a sequence set up by the offsides so they’re not related(/endrant).

Either way the Sounders were up 1-0 and still on the attack which later fizzled out in the first half. Then came halftime in which the Sounders held a 1-0 lead. Unlike the RSL game last season where it was still 0-0 at the break.

Then comes the corner in the 57th minute which finds the head of Zach Scott (that can’t be right, can it?) to give the Sounders the 2-0 fixture lead and cut the Galaxy aggregate lead to one. Scott also had the assist on EJ’s goal, but that stat was easily forgotten based on his first leg performance — sorry Zach.

It was smooth sailing for Seattle who had 35 minutes to score once more with LA not on their heels but basically flat on their asses.

But the crew from Hollywood had to add a little drama didn’t they? It came in the form of a handball by Sounders right back Adam Johansson via LA’s Robbie Keane.

A handball by rule is an intentional use of the hand or arm to block the progress of a ball (note intentional was both bolded and italicized). Did the chip from Keane hit the left hand of the Sweed? Yes, but was it intentional? No way in hell. It’s a tough call for an out of position ref in Mark Geiger (who has entered the ranks of top 10 hated people in Seattle), but he made it and gave LA the penalty which Keane slotted past Michael Gspurning. My problem and biggest gripe — in fact maybe the most important piece of this jumble of words — is that Major League Soccer will never grow and will stay the punchline of international soccer jokes with such inconsistent refereeing. Note the picture at the top of the post, the main shot is from last week at LA where no PK was given. I know it’s blurry but you can clearly tell the players arms are both extended out and should be the same call either way — they weren’t. If it’s a penalty it’s a penalty, if not that’s fine too. Keep it consistent and we can progress as a league.

From that point on as the match score was now 2-1 and the aggregate 4-2 the match became  a cluster off irritating passing and lack-luster efforts by the Sounders to pull back the needed two goals in around 20 minutes time.

The season is over for the Sounders. Next up is the winter transfer window which we will cove here on Nasorb to great detail along with the MLS Super Draft. Until then it will be tough to burn this series out of our minds and remember that for the first time in franchise history we won a playoff series and were at one point a strike away from hosting the MLS Cup Final. There’s a lot of good to look back on this season for the Rave Green, but not nearly the amount of great there should have been. Expect changes in Sounderland and expect a team that has the physical and mental toughness to make the needed run next season.

Good night Sounders, and good luck.