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Originally published May 22, 2010 at 5:53 PM | Page modified May 22, 2010 at 10:52 PM

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Steve Kelley

San Jose hands Sounders FC 2nd consecutive shutout at home

Qwest Field should provide a huge advantage for Sounders FC, but the club is 2-3-1 at home.

Seattle Times staff columnist

This place should be a paradise for the home team. Qwest Field with its 35,000 jump-jivin' fanatics should guarantee goals and wins and cups for Sounders FC.

It should be one of the greatest advantages in the game. Think Cameron Indoor on steroids.

It should be all cozy and crazy at the same time, the way the home pitch is for all of the great teams in this great sport.

At Manchester United and Chelsea, at Inter Milan, Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona, the home team rarely loses. It surfs that emotional wave that rolls down from the stands to win after win after win.

But in Seattle everything has been reversed. The home field has been a disadvantage. The enthusiasm of Sounders fans is fueling the wrong team.

"I think every team comes in here and is excited to play here," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. "It's different for them. This is not the atmosphere they have at home. For them, it's a thrilling, exciting experience that sometimes works against us."

How did this happen? How could the best soccer experience in the country turn toxic for the home team? How could all this noise, enthusiasm and passion work against the Sounders?

"Because of the crowd and the expectation of how they play, you maybe get a little anxious when there's 35,000 people willing you on to score," said San Jose coach Frank Yallop. "You get maybe a little anxious in front of the goal."

Despite the enthusiastic chorus that serenades them from the minute they take the field until they leave, the Sounders haven't been finding the back of the net. They now have gone 266 consecutive minutes without a home goal.

Qwest Field should be as safe as Old Trafford or Camp Nou. The Sounders should revel in the love and affection that pours from every corner of the stadium. The will of the hometown crowd should be worth at least a goal a game.

But after Saturday's 1-0 loss to San Jose, the Sounders are 2-3-1 at home. And they've lost consecutive home games inside their division.

They continued to push forward, continued to create chances and continued to miss the net. The Sounders outshot San Jose 18-3. They had 11 corner kicks to San Jose's 3. But at the end of the day they had another zero.

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"It's the same story," Steve Zakuani said. "We create chances, but we're not scoring. Something has to change, but I don't know what it is."

After the game Schmid closed the locker room and unleashed his unhappiness.

"He told us we've got to have more pride," Zakuani said. "We can't have teams coming in here expecting to win. Teams can't come here thinking this is an easy place to pick up points, but we're on the verge of making it like that. We've got to stop that. He told us some harsh truths."

What are fans to do? Their enthusiasm is amping up the visitors and tightening up the Sounders. Qwest Field has become a Twilight Zone.

"During the national anthem I was getting goose bumps," San Jose's goal scorer Chris Wondolowski said. "Looking around, listening to the crowd, it was unreal. It made me want to come out firing. I think that first 20 minutes, their crowd really helped us."

The answer, of course, isn't for the team to encourage its fans to avoid Qwest Field. The Sounders aren't going to ask fans to muffle their enthusiasm.

As creative as their marketing department is, the Sounders won't declare their next home fixture against New England "Stay at Home Night" and offer season-ticket holders a free game next season if they stay away this season.

This team simply needs more goal scorers. It needs the return of striker Nate Jaqua, who should be ready in another week or two. It needs Swiss international Blaise Nkufo, who will join Seattle after the World Cup.

"We have to find a way to be more consistent and dominant at home. Last year, that's what we built our forte on," Zakuani said. "We have to change our approach in one way or another, because right now it's not working.

"The best teams in the league, I think it's their home form that makes them good. Last year, teams came in here and it was tough to win. It doesn't feel the same. We need to get it back."

Quickly.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com.

More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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