The Blues are back on the road looking to make a it a clean sweep against Cascadia in 2016. Many thanks to Dave for helping us get a handle on Sigi Schmid's team. Honestly, you should like Sounder at Heart on Facebook.
KNOW YOUR ENEMY.
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HRB: Seattle has been a top-of-the-league mainstay since inception and one of the best franchises in MLS since they came into the league in 2009. The team has not missed the Playoffs in its time in MLS, but find themselves 9th in the conference, 16 points out of first place. I'm wondering how your strong and passionate fan base is viewing the 2016 team? Is there optimism that this will turn around, or has pessimism about the state of the club set in?
SaH: This same question was asked last week. While there was strong pushback for a dreary attitude then it is clear that the feelings of pessimism are only getting stronger. A large element of Sounders fans do not know how to deal with a mediocre, flawed team. Their other soccer experiences come from rooting for the greats around the world. Their Sounders experience has decades of strength behind it. So here we are, mediocre.
Even rumors of a Copa America star and Argentine scoring threat aren't enough to get people excited. This game will be under 50,000 seats sold. Considering it is the first of the full stadium matches for the year with an expected picture perfect 74 degrees and sunny day, the Pride events and the trio of Villa, Lampard and Pirlo possibly coming to town that number is low. It's low because the issues on the field stifle the excitement for what should be a wonderful day of soccer, even if the team loses.
HRB: In trying to find a reason for your struggles it did not take me long to see that the Sounders are dead last in MLS in scoring with only 13 goals through 14 matches. What is the cause for this scoring slump? Does it have more to do with the outgoing players (Obafemi Martins, Lamar Neagle, Chad Barrett), or is it a tactical issue?
SaH: Losing an MVP candidate a week before the season is a large part of the struggles. Oba didn't just play well, he improved the play of everyone around him. That loss ripped the attack to shreds, and it happened after Seattle had dumped its depth forwards so rather than have their #1,4,5 forwards from 2015 they have Dempsey who is fading, Valdez who is faded and Morris who is young and improving. There's a chance that Aaron Kovar learns to start finishing, but heading into 2016 he was a traditional crossing left mid who might be a better left back than midfielder. Now he's the starting right wing in a 4-3-3. Kovar's growing into that role, but it is a heck of a change to go from crossing specialist to expected finisher.
Other forwards like Herculez Gomez, Oalex Anderson, Darwin Jones and Andy Craven are either old, young or not good enough to start. Actually, maybe each are two of those. Seattle's attacking core four features Jordan Morris, two old players falling short of expectations and Kovar. The depth players are either inexperienced or unable to score at this level anymore.
tl;dr - it's not the tactics. The players just aren't good enough.
HRB: Speaking of attack, NYC FC catches a break this week as Dempsey is still with the USMNT as they try to snatch the bronze in the Copa America. Dempsey's goal scoring record for the Sounders has always been great, but this year it's only two in ten matches. What have you seen from Dempsey so far this season? What impact will his absence have on the match this week?
SaH: You know those buddy cop movies where the savvy, angry veteran lost his long time partner? He's bitter that he has to be paired with the young kid, but he'll go through the motions, because dammit that's what's expected? That's early 2016 Clint Dempsey.
The thing is his young future buddy is really good, and they can be really good together. It's taking time for Dempsey-Morris to figure each other out. If they can do that quickly and you turn this buddy cop film into a ensemble action flick with the other talents filling their role the Sounders should have a great latter two-thirds of the year.
As Clint showed the world during the Copa he isn't done yet. If he can do for the Sounders what he's doing for the US (which at worst will be 3 goals and 3 assists in six games) the rest of this year is going to be a thrill ride. Seattle only needs to have an average offense to be a good team. The defense is that good. BTW - those numbers would mean Clint rushes towards the Playoffs with a 10-10 or so and would be his third straight year with the double-double.
SaH's Projected Starting XI
Stefan Frei; Joevin Jones, Chad Marshall, Brad Evans, Tyrone Mears; Osvaldo Alonso, Cristian Roldan, Erik Friberg; Andreas Ivanschitz, Jordan Morris, Aaron Kovar