Month – April 2016

Seattle Sounders and Overcoming the Fickle Finger of Fate

The Seattle Sounders are on a roll ba-bay! In the last three games, we’ve gotten three straight results and 7 points for a mini-run of 2.33 ppg.

Be all pessimistic and say “small sample size” but that is a huge flip from out previous 0.00 ppg. And I’d argue we still haven’t found equilibrium. The trick, though, is finding where the Sounders’ fate will eventually settle.

No one outside the 503 area code really believes the Sounders are a below-the-red-line 1 ppg club, but do we dare believe we are a 2.33 ppg juggernaut?

The worst Sounders team in the MLS era was the 1.56 ppg squad from the inaugural season. The best was the Supporters’ Shield winning 2014 side with 1.88 ppg. The 2016 Sounders season probably lies somewhere between those extremes. The next 7 months will be a seismic needle of ups and downs testing the quality of these Sounders.

The key to surviving the marathon MLS season is: health, depth, and focus.

In 2014 we were lucky to enjoy incredible health throughout the year, as our starters all played significant minutes. When we did have to dip into the 18, we had serious depth with names such as Kenny Cooper, Lamar Neagle, and Chad Barrett fighting for minutes up top and, a still effective Pineda, Pappa and Rose all fighting their way into the 11 in the midfield. Hell, we even had Hahnemann behind Frei.

And of course that team had focus. They found it in the 4-4 draw early in Portland. We quickly gelled as a team that would win barnburners. We were an attacking team that shoved the ball down the opposition’s throat with consistent possession and elaborate and deadly passing sequences. That attack took us all the way to the precipice of the MLS Cup.

2015 we lacked both health and depth as the Dog Days of Summer clearly showed (Remember the lineup from that Philly game? sheesh). And to further complicate matters, our focus changed midseason. Ozzie’s injury and the decline of Pineda combined with the unavailability of many starters to force the team to change personnel and identities. By the end of the season Valdez and Ivanschitz were still trying to figure out their roles. Unfortunately the 2015 Seattle Sounders ended a work in progress.

In 2016, we haven’t started great. Our health has been unlucky (or unsurprising when so many starters are on the wrong side of 30) as we’re still without Roman Torres, and Friberg, Evans and Valdez have been in and out of the training room. Our depth is a question mark only because of the recent youth movement. We still don’t know how much Anderson, Roldan, Kovar, and Remick can really contribute in the 11 (though early returns have been very promising).

Lastly, the 2016 Sounders need to find their focus. Obafemi Martins’s sudden departure is most to blame. This has really thrown Sigi back into the workshop as he tries to find a way to transition from a nOba, Valdez, Clint front 3. We’ve suffered the fits and starts and only just witnessed success with the most recent incarnation of the lineup. Deploying Ivanschitz as a right wing and Morris playing as a center forward created Seattle’s most potent attack of the season.

How this lineup eventually settles, (what DP finally signs) and whether the kids are all right will determine where the Sounders 2016 fortune falls.

Bold Prediction: Seattle Sounders Vs. Philadelphia Union

The Seattle Sounders square off at home against the Philadelphia Union tonight in Sodo.

Seattle vs. Philly is always an interesting game for me. I have a soft spot for the Union, but it has nothing to do with their city. They are, along with Columbus and Real Salt Lake, one of the three teams in MLS I feel passive affection for.

Columbus is a joy to watch. Gregg Berhalter coaches the hell out of that team and Higuain is a magician. They play the pretty, attacking football that I love.

RSL, though it is hard to feel anything other than apathy or anger for a Western Conference foe, deserves respect. And hell, not even grudging respect. I openly respect that team, and if you stood in the rain for hours of a scoreless epic to finally see Mario Martinez blast in a one-timer past the indomitable Nick Rimando… Respect.

Philly I just kinda feel sorry for. Their supporters care. They fill the stadium and the team never, ever gives them anything to be proud of. Then somehow they dumbed their way to the USOC Finals two years in a row, falling to us and then SKC in heartbreaking-extra-time-fashion (SKC on penalties!). That’s gotta be rough.

At least this season, and god knows it’s still early, their fans have something to cheer for. That’s a nice change for the denizens of the Delaware.

But this game is about the Sounders.

Last week’s win was the best draw since the 4-4 classic in Portland. It is a draw that can right a listing season. The 0-3 start was bad, but 1-4 would’ve been much worse. At 1-3-1, and with a home match against the Eastern Conference, the Sounders have a chance to, if not build momentum, at least attain an equilibrium.

We all knew we fell on the very harsh side of those first three games. Did we “deserve” a result a Houston? Probably not, but we also didn’t deserve 0 points from our first three. This is merely regression to the mean.

The Sounders are still figuring things out: where and when to start Ivanschitz and Morris and Herc and Anderson. I expect more tinkering today. I don’t know if Herc is 90 minutes fit, or if it is smart to start Anderson just yet, but those two players are key to the Sounders having a facsimile of an attack.

BOLD PREDICTION: Valdez could return today, as could Friberg. This creates good competition for selection. I don’t think Sigi shakes up the starting 11 too much, but he’s got his hand on the trigger to get Herc and Anderson in if need be.

Philly is not a good road team, they lost to Chicago in Chicago. But the Union don’t allow too many goals (thanks to Andre Blake). Despite a solid 7 goals in 5 games, Philly mostly wins tense affairs (outside their 3-0 whupping of New England), with only four goals in their other four games.

I see a close, well-contest game tonight. I am giving Seattle home field advantage: Sounders 1-0, but on a set piece.

Seattle Sounders vs. Montreal Impact Matchday

The Seattle Sounders will lose their next four games, or so I dreamed last night.

It was a real bummer of a dream, a nightmare in fact. I often don’t remember my dreams, so when I do I imagine them especially prescient. I saw Seattle dropping the next four games and going into their next bye at 0-7. But… they Sounders don’t have a bye 5 weeks from now, so it was a dream, right?

Bold Prediction: I have been trying to be all objective with these bold predictions and guessing at draws and losses. Screw that. The Sounders win 3-0!!

Honestly, I don’t know a dang thing about the Montreal Impact (and clearly I’ve been swamped on the home front and not blogging/researching as much I’d like), so my above prediction is just ignorant homerism.

*UPDATE*

I just checked the lineups and saw Remick and Kovar are starting… making my prediction even more… ambitious. C’mon

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