Seattle Sounders Brave New World

In direct inverse to the 2016 Seattle Sounders, Raving Green, the little blog that could, winds down not with a bang but a whimper.

This blog has been shuffling off to obsolescence these past months. Outside of the Copa America tournament, I’ve written little since April. Aforementioned reasons for putting the blog on the back burner: a basement remodel and new job, both of which were necessitated by my wife and I welcoming our own little Sounders fan into the family, August Bryan Knudson Schaeffer (and believe me, she is a cutie in her Rave Green onesie).

But sadly, I only have few weeks left to write about the 2016 season. In my last Sounders-specific post, waaay back on April 19th, Seattle had just beat the Philadelphia Union 2-1. That got their record up to 2-3-1, a modest 7 points in 6 games but, more importantly, Jordan Morris scored his first MLS goal in that game.

J-Mo. He’s so hot right now.

Though Seattle was enjoying a mini run of 3 straight results with that win against Philly, things would fall apart. Seattle would lose 9 of its next 14 games, culminating in Sigi’s Waterloo at SKC. But what a world the Sounders were in back then. Look at their lineup:

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-12-31-08-amWe were still playing a 4-3-3. Oalex Anderson started. Sheesh.

Though some things stayed the same. Here’s the lineup that beat L.A. in L.A.

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-12-31-42-amIn my April post, I noticed that J-Mo up top opened our offense, especially with Ivanschitz playing wide. That combo is now interim coach Brian Schmetzer’s default (of course with a certain Uruguayan pulling the strings in the center of the pitch).

Back in that post I wondered how the 2016 Sounders would fare and wrote: The key to surviving the marathon MLS season is: health, depth, and focus. Depth and focus, I’ll write about later.

Seattle’s health hasn’t been great. We don’t have too many names on the injury list (KNOCK ON WOOD!), with only Evans nursing a nagging knock (and he should play against Vancouver) and Aaron Kovar out since July (Kovar, sadly, still hasn’t seen the pitch yet. For a long time he was my favorite whipping boy. Whenever I saw him in the lineup I puked a little in my mouth. But in this, the season of our discontent, when he was called upon, Kovar produced. I was really starting to enjoy his development when he broke his clavicle in the Open Cup loss to L.A. Pouring one out), one big name is injured.

Clint Dempsey was the king of Seattle soccer. While scoring a brace in downing the hated Timbers, he capped three straight wins for the reborn Sounders and all looked good in the world. Then, completely unexpectedly, the man’s health took a frightening turn and his 2016 season is over. Missing Deuce hurts. Though aging and curmudgeonly, Deuce is simply the best field player the U.S. has ever produced. The man just scores goals. You don’t replace him. Period. We dropped our first points (and suffered our first loss) of the Schmetzer era without Deuce in the lineup.

If you had told me back on April 19th that we’d be above the redline for the very first time this season, but wouldn’t have Dempsey to close the year, I’d be anxious. Recent run of form aside, I still am anxious. Sure we won our last 3 games. But outside of the miracle in Carson, we only have two gritty 1-0 wins over underwhelming Vancouver and Chicago. Even with J-Mo and Lodeiro, how potent can our attack be?

Whether or not we make the playoffs, whether or not we survive the MLS marathon, we must earn results without Deuce. Hell, we may never see him in Rave Green again. Welcome to the brave new world of Seattle Sounders soccer.

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