By John Boyle Herald Columnist
TUKWILA — Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
The Seattle Sounders are a surprise last-place team in Major League Soccer — in fact, they are the only winless team in the league. The Sounders also can’t buy a goal, and they have not been able to get much going in the way of team cohesion, thanks to injuries, national team obligations and significant roster moves that came late in the offseason and even after the season started.
Sounds familiar, yes? That’s because the plot line heading into today’s game in Colorado is much like the plot line last week, and the week before that, and … OK, you get the picture. I’d say it’s like the movie Groundhog Day, except the Sounders don’t have the luxury of crawling into a hole and waiting for brighter days (though a Bill Murray cameo would certainly add some much-needed levity to this season).
So what gives?
How does a team that many saw as a title contender start the season with an 0-3-2 record? And more importantly, can the Sounders recover? The reasons for Seattle’s early struggles, which were alluded to above, have been well-documented over the past few weeks. What really matters at this point is that latter question — can the Sounders recover, and if so, how soon?
And as bad as the start to this season has been, as frustrated as fans have been, this really is not a time for panic. If the losses and lack of goals continues much longer, panic away, but let’s hold off on it for just a bit longer.
Despite the results, despite the missed scoring chances, this is a talented team. It is one of the most talented in the league, in fact. Unless there is something seriously wrong in the locker room that we don’t know about — and there are no indications at all that there is — the Sounders talent level will produce results sooner than later.
“There is enough talent here to get the job done,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “I don’t think there are a lot of teams in the league that are saying ‘Oh, I hope we get to play the Sounders; they’re not very good.’ I don’t think anybody’s out there saying that.”
Schmid wouldn’t have joked about this team’s place in the standing last week, or gone on KJR and guaranteed a win — which the Sounders didn’t produce — if he didn’t have faith in his team. And he should have faith. After five league games and four in CONCACAF Champions League play, the Sounders just this week practiced at anything close to full strength.
New addition Shalrie Joseph is finally getting into game shape, forwards Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins are finally practicing together and Brad Evans is back from injury. When you add all of that up, there is reason to believe this funk will end soon, quite possibly today in Colorado.
“We know what we have in the locker room, we know the potential we have on the team,” said Joseph, who made his first start in a league game last week. “Once we get together and start clicking, it’s going to show. … The potential and the talent we have on this team, and guys’ work rates, you can’t ask for more.
“We know we’re one of the better teams in the league, but we can’t just say that. We’ve got to go out there and prove it week in and week out, and it’s going to have to start this weekend.”
As Joseph notes, the time for excuses is over. And just to be clear here, the Sounders aren’t making excuses; they’re owning up to the fact that as of now, they are what their record says they are. Excuses is my word choice, not theirs. But you can’t deny that there have been extenuating circumstances that have kept this team from being at its best early in the season.
Now that just about everyone is back at practice, and Schmid has done some lineup tinkering, benching regulars like Mauro Rosales and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, who returned to the lineup last week, it’s time for the results to match the talent. Seattle showed progress in its last Champions League game in Mexico, and even in last week’s tie with New England. However, progress in a tie isn’t going to cut it for much longer.
There is a ton of season left — 29 games to be exact — so to panic now would be premature. Another loss, however, will bring everyone a little closer to the edge.
“It’s just a matter of us not panicking, just believing in what we can do, but also recognizing that there is some urgency there too,” Schmid said. “We don’t want to keep waiting. We want to get it done sooner rather than later.”
If for no other reason than to give everyone something different to talk about when it comes to the Sounders, sooner rather than later sounds pretty nice.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.