Seattle is one of the most talked about teams in MLS. Between their record setting attendance, world class names, and on-field success, there's plenty of reason why. However, similar to last season, the Sounders are off to a less than impressive start to the league campaign. Today we are joined by Dave from Sounder at Heart to look into some of these issues from the visiting team perspective.
1. How much time does Sigi have left to show that he can be successful with this team? He was on the hot seat for a brief time last season, and the Sounders have struggled out of the gate in 2014, losing 2 of the first 5 games.
Seattle's two losses were to the two best teams in the Eastern Conference (2nd and 3rd in the league). Two mistakes by former All Star Marco Pappa gave Jermaine Defoe two goals. An odd last second goal from a corner ended the chance at a hang-on draw versus the Crew. Sigi and the club seem content with how the team is playing with a knowledge that there are more points in the future than behind him. This is clearly a playoff team, even if flawed (it's also MLS so there will always be flaws).
Schmid is in the last year of his contract. The evaluation he received last year clearly indicated that the organization was dissatisfied with the way the season ended. Still, they chose Sigi based on his process and the way his process fits into the overall organizational philosophy. The rebuild here is rather extreme for a club that was on the verge of both the Supporters' Shield and won a playoff game. It is clearly as talented, if not more so than the teams that won multiple US Open Cups and threatened regularly at winning the Shield, made history in the CCL and has moderate Playoff success. Sigi's bar is high. His history here is of success without the pinnacle. He'll need to do at least that well to remain here in 2015.
2. Seattle has some big names that all need to gel together to be effective. How is the relationship between Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, and Kenny Cooper? How do they complement each other?
The relationship is still developing, but it seems to be going quite well. Dempsey's at four goals with an assist. Oba's earned four assists and a goal. Cooper has two goals and an assist. The 4-3-3 worked fairly well at getting them interacting with each other. Cooper goes out wide, a place that hadn't worked well for him in the past, but plays that space like a target man. It's rather easy for Kenny to win an aerial duel against MLS outside backs. From there he can knock it back to Yedlin or into danger areas where Oba and Clint roam. Dempsey starts on the left in this three forward set, but plays underneath Martins quite a bit. This puts the two DPs in spaces where both are goal dangerous. Their passing skills regularly spring each other and create chances. Against Portland they looked dynamic and potent. They've still hardly played with one another.
3. What has been plaguing Seattle in the playoffs? With all the success the rave green have had in the US Open Cup, why do they struggle in a similar tournament like MLS Cup Playoffs?
At one point I thought the issue was with two-leg series. Then they beat RSL, a couple months later beat Tigres and shortly after that nearly beat Santos Laguna. In 09, 10, 12 and 13 they were the underdogs in the two-leg series. They won one of those. The only time they were the favorite was in 2011 and lost due to a complete egg on the road in leg one. That's not horrible. The idea that the lower seed should win frequently seems... odd.
Right now I'm more concerned with Seattle maintaining its undefeated road record and settling into a single shape that unlocks the talents of the best attacking players on the team (Clint, Oba, Cooper, Yedlin). They'll be in the Playoffs at the end of the year, hopefully with a major trophy or two already in their display.
Thanks again for reading and to Dave in Seattle for his time. How do you think the teams will stack up? Do Dempsey and Cooper run rampant in their home state? Does Mauro make magic again, leading the reds to glory? Chime in on the comments below.
And be sure to check out my answers to Seattle's questions over on the Sounder at Heart blog.