By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
What’s wrong with the Sounders?
That question hasn’t been asked much over the club’s three-and-a-half seasons. But it’s being asked now because over the past five games only two Major League Soccer teams have accumulated fewer points.
Little more than a month ago, Seattle had the highest points-per-game total in the league. However, a loss to Real Salt Lake on May 12 started a five-game winless skid that the Sounders (7-4-3) will take into their home match with Sporting Kansas City (9-3-1) on Wednesday.
Seattle is 0-3-2 over the stretch. Only Philadelphia and Dallas (both 0-4-1) have done worse.
The question is what caused the sudden free fall.
Varying answers came from Sounders asked Monday after training at CenturyLink Field.
n Coach Sigi Schmid: “We have to change our mentality. I think we got off to such a good start. … What happens then is invariably you pat yourself on the back a little bit, and you read (the newspapers) and you say, ‘Hey, pretty positive.’ And you just subconsciously relax a little bit; and we’ve got to get out of that relaxation mode.”
n Captain Mauro Rosales: “We are not creating the same soccer that we created last year or the first part of this season. We’ve been … having a problem keeping the ball and keeping possession. We’ve had possession in many games, but it’s not like the same quality that we had in the past games. We have to work hard … mentally and try to use the next game and don’t think about the past five games.”
n Defender Jeff Parke: “It’s little stuff, but it’s also big stuff. … Obviously, we’re not keeping balls out of the back of the net. So, defensively as a back four we have to demand more out of the guys in front of us and demand more out of each other in the back.”
The numbers confirm those defensive problems. Seattle went into the Salt Lake game having allowed three goals over nine games. In the five games since, Seattle had given up 10.
Bryan Meredith, a 22-year-old in his first MLS season, was in goal for all of them, and Schmid implied something will have to change.
“The third goal (at Montreal), he’s got to save,” Schmid said. “He knows that, and he’ll be the first one to admit that. It’s just sometimes things aren’t falling your way, sometimes it’s good to take a step back, sometimes you need a little bit of a talking to. What that final answer is we’ll know on Wednesday.”
If Schmid decides to change keepers, his prime option is reserve Andrew Weber, a veteran who hasn’t appeared in a league match since 2009. Schmid said No. 1 goalkeeper Michael Gspurning is recovering from a hip injury, but is not yet ready.
Seattle also has been playing without defenders Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez and Adam Johansson due to lingering injuries. All trained Monday and could be ready for Kansas City.
However, the club will be without central defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, who is ineligible after receiving a straight red card in Montreal.
Meanwhile, defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso will return Wednesday after serving a two-game suspension for a dangerous tackle.
“It’s important to have Ozzie back because he’s an important member of our team,” Schmid said. “But the most important thing right now is we have to play better soccer than we did in Montreal. That was a disappointing effort on our part. I know the team’s not happy with it, and we have to put the ship right on Wednesday.”
Schmid did not rule out the possibility of midfielder Steve Zakuani appearing on the 18-man roster Wednesday for the first time since suffering leg injuries April 22, 2011, at Colorado. … The club has decided not to appeal Hurtado’s red card. … Montreal midfielder was voted MLS player of the week Monday after recording three assists in the Impact’s win over Seattle. … The Sounders have announced changes to entrances to the north parking lot at CenturyLink Field. Details at the blog address below.