The Sounders looked like they had fully recovered from a bad start to the season when they rattled off a 4-0-1 stretch after starting the year winless through five games. Even better, Seattle won two in a row in blowout fashion, beating San Jose 4-0, then knocking of first-place FC Dallas 4-2.
But just when you though the Sounders were back on track, they fell to the Los Angles Galaxy 4-0 last weekend, then traveled to Florida where they lost to the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the U.S. Open Cup, a tournament in which Seattle has thrived in the past, winning three straight titles before losing in the championship game last year.
So now what? How can the Sounders figure out how to be the dangerous team they were prior to the two-game debacle that began in Los Angeles?
"We can't forget what got us back on the winning path," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said on a conference call Friday. "We've got to go back to our roots of just working hard, competing for every loose ball, being quicker in closing people down, and just being better with the ball. We weren't good with the ball against L.A., and that really hurt us, because we gave away possession too easily."
When the Sounders were struggling early in the season, Schmid was at times critical of his team's work rate. He wouldn't say that was the issue in the last two losses, but he did indicate that some players may have gotten too comfortable with their recent success.
"The message to the team is that you can't be complacent," Schmid said. "You can't think you're there. The moment you think you're there, something comes up and bites you in the rear end. You can't be complacent.
"As players, you have to realize that you're fighting for your job. Sometimes players think, 'OK, well I'm secure, I'm safe.' You've got to realize that you're only as good as your last game. Every day is a new challenge for all of us -- the coaching staff, the players on the field. So right now it's about getting people to think about this game on Saturday against Chivas and forgetting about the other two."
If there is a silver lining in the past week for the Sounders, it's that their Open Cup elimination means the team can be fully focused on MLS play the rest of the year. In past years, the Sounders' Open Cup success has meant the extra games and travel that can catch up to a team late in the season. Now, for better or worse, the Sounders have only league games to worry about between now and the end of the year.
"It's nice to be only focused on that, but also, if I'm a player on this team, it's disappointing because there are game opportunities that for some guys are now out the window," Schmid said, noting that past Open Cups have provided opportunities for reserves to make a name for themselves.
Midfielder Shalrie Joseph was given an addition one-game suspension on top of the automatic suspension that came with the red card he received in L.A. last weekend. Joseph was ejected late in the game for a hard foul on Marcelo Sarvas, an act that the league's disciplinary decided "was egregious, involving contact above the shoulders that endangered the safety of his opponent, and required further sanction."
Joseph will miss today's game and Seattle's June 8 home game against Vancouver.
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com.
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