Are Sounders undisciplined, out of control?
Three red cards and a postgame scuffle in four recent games are part of a troubling pattern of behavior.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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For a team that takes pride in playing beautiful soccer, Sounders FC games have produced some ugly scenes recently.
An undisciplined trend started June 16, but the tackle that earned defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado a red card in Montreal was more ill-timed than malicious.
Things turned more serious four days later in an overtly physical home game against Sporting Kansas City. That's when Seattle midfielder Alvaro Fernandez banged into Roger Espinoza with a reckless slide tackle and was ejected in stoppage time.
Sounders forward Fredy Montero followed suit late in a heated rivalry game in Portland on Sunday, when he was sent off for a needless two-handed shove on Timbers defender David Horst.
The latest regrettable incident came Tuesday in San Francisco as Eddie Johnson was celebrating a hard-fought 1-0 win in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal against the favored San Jose Earthquakes. The forward's enthusiasm crossed a line — Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said — when it was directed toward San Jose fans, and was done near the opposing team's bench.
Earthquakes reserve Jed Zayner took exception, confronting Johnson with an apparent push. Johnson reacted by allegedly striking Zayner in the face, which nearly escalated into something bigger between the teams.
While what happened exactly is hard to determine — a zoomed-out, low-resolution video and varying firsthand accounts are the only evidence — it's part of a troubling pattern of behavior.
Four games. Three red cards and a postgame fracas.
"I'm not happy with it," Schmid said in a conference call Wednesday. "It's something we've talked about as a team, and we talked about it again (Tuesday) briefly after the game, and we'll address it again. It's important for us to maintain our composure.
"But when somebody kicks you, then your first reaction is you sort of want to kick them back at some point. It's easy to say, 'You shouldn't do that.' Sometimes it's hard when you're in the emotion of the game to not do that, but it's something that we as a team need to become better at and not allow teams to take us out of our game."
There are several elements that might have played a part in the spike of unruliness.
Schmid said he doesn't think referees have controlled games very well in a few of the contests. The past two games were played on smaller fields, which tend to produce more physical duels and contentious battles for the ball. The Sounders' franchise-worst seven-game MLS winless streak also had frustrations peaking.
On top of all that Tuesday, Schmid labeled San Jose fans as the most abrasive he's experienced in MLS. "They're always attacking my heritage and things like that," he said. That might have played a part in Johnson's behavior. But this wasn't an isolated incident for the forward.
Johnson was fined an undisclosed amount by the MLS Disciplinary Committee on May 1 for making an inappropriate gesture to Chicago fans immediately after Seattle's 2-1 win against the Fire, which also featured a postgame scuffle.
Schmid said the issue will be handled internally.
"I'll take care of Eddie Johnson," the coach said. "I just don't like it when other teams are trying to take care of my players."
• Tickets for Sounders FC's U.S. Open Cup semifinal against Chivas USA go on sale at 10 a.m. Thursday. The game will be July 10 at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @joshuamayers
|After earning just two red cards all last season, the Sounders have earned three ejections in their past three MLS games, plus the dust-up after Tuesday's Open Cup game.|
|June 16||Jhon Kennedy Hurtado||Montreal||Red card|
|June 20||Alvaro Fernandez||Sporting KC||Red card|
|Sunday||Fredy Montero||Portland||Red card|
|Tuesday||Eddie Johnson||San Jose (Open Cup)||Alleged punch|