By JASON MITCHELL
SEATTLE – Even a midweek guarantee from head coach Sigi Schmid can’t get the Seattle Sounders in the win column. And the New England Revolution still haven’t scored since early March.
Shorthanded and facing a stingy Revolution defense, the Sounders (0-3-2) controlled play for most of the match Saturday afternoon, repeatedly testing backup goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth and creating plenty of scoring chances. But with starting forwards Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson sidelined with injuries, Seattle settled for the 0-0 draw and just its second point of the season.
It was the Revolution’s second scoreless tie in three matches. The Sounders are the third team New England has shut out just five games into the 2013 MLS season.
The Sounders sensed something familiar, too.
“Just a little bit of deja vu in terms of you have to finish your chances,” Schmid said. “If you finish your chances you win games. We had chances to put the game away in the first half. We didn’t score, we didn’t put the game away in the first half.”
Seattle’s last good opportunity came in the 82nd minute. Mauro Rosales flicked a DeAndre Yedlin cross toward the penalty spot, but Lamar Neagle’s one-touch volley rolled weakly into Shuttleworth’s gloves, a lost chance on afternoon full of them in front of 38,323 at CenturyLink Field.
The Sounders remain the lone team in MLS without a win, an unsettling start for a team many considered an MLS Cup contender.
For New England, it was a match emblematic of their young season: stalwart defending and anemic attacking that generated just a single first-half shot. But the Revs will head home from a cross-country trip to one of the league’s most unfriendly venues with a valuable road point.
The afternoon began with Seattle playing some of its most attractive and creative soccer of the season.
Steve Zakuani, starting at forward alongside Neagle, looked likely to score a goal from the game’s opening moments, testing Shuttleworth from the top of the penalty area in just the third minute.
Barely 10 minutes later Neagle found Zakuani at the far post on the counterattack, but defender Jose Goncalves stepped in nicely to deflect the shot over the endline. Osvaldo Alonso nearly scored on the ensuing corner, stepping into a soft clearance and rifling a 20-yard shot inches over the crossbar.
“Both teams are struggling to get wins,” said New England head coach Jay Heaps, “so we knew they were going to come out flying and they did. That was part of our job, to manage the first 20 minutes of the game and then try to take the game on. We never really did that until the second half.”
As the first half came to a close, Zakuani got on the end of a through ball from left back Leo Gonzalez and found himself facing Shuttleworth alone, but could only muster a soft roller that barely challenged the charging goalkeeper.
The Akron product created one last chance for himself in the 55th minute, taking a pass from Shalrie Joseph near the middle of the field and racing at defender A. J. Soares before unleashing a shot from 16 yards out that sailed just past the far post.
“He had two really quality looks in the first half,” Schmid said of Zakuani. “And then he had a quality look that he created himself in the second half off the dribble. So if you finish one of those three, I don’t need all three, I just need one of those three and we’re there. And I’m sure he feels the same way. I mean, there’s nobody who feels worse than he does.”
The Revolution (1-2-2) have allowed just two goals over five matches despite missing veteran goalkeeper Matt Reis for three games due to lingering knee pain.
“It’s a tough place to play and our guys stepped up to the challenge,” said Heaps. “We did a nice job defensively.”
But the Revs also haven’t scored since Jerry Bengston headed in the game-winner in New England’s 1-0 seasoning-opening victory at Chicago.
That was more than a month ago, although perhaps help is on the way. French striker Saer Sene came on late for the Revs, seeing his first action since rupturing his ACL last August. Sene had 11 goals before the injury, the most for a New England player since Taylor Twellman in 2007.
“He’s not 100 percent yet, but you can see some of the things he can do,” Heaps said about Sene. “He kept the ball for us, made some good runs, and his fitness is going to come along. His body is good, but we just need to get his fitness up. He definitely helped us.”
Looking forward, both teams are back in action on April 20, with New England visiting the New York Red Bulls and the Sounders traveling to Colorado to face the Rapids.
Zakuani, for one, can’t wait to get back out on the pitch.
“At the end of the day, as a team, we need to get through this,” said the London native. ”And we are going to get through it. There’s no doubt at all in my mind that we’re gonna do it. But we need guys like myself—or whoever—someone needs to be the one to score that first goal and help us have that breakout game, which is coming, but just can’t come soon enough right now.”