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.