The start of this season builds in me a solid hope that the Sounders FC will gel over time. A fervent wish within my Blue and Green heart is that the ‘gelling’ will happen quickly. But wearing away at these hopes and wishes is a fear: is the picture we’re getting of our beloved team at the start of this season merely a portent of things to come? Will the Boys in Slate find a way to put points on the board, or will the season be one long, disjointed, ‘not quite’ drive to a sad and ultimately dead-end season close?
I know what you’re saying: “Paul, they’ve had two games. Both games were against opponents with teams that have been playing together for a while. One of those teams is among the top teams in Mexico! We only lost to them by one point!” I’m not sure your words are meant to comfort, or give you something to hide behind, but either way I find no solace in them.
The Sounders started rough in their game with Montreal. Now, I will grant a few concessions here: Montreal’s team is largely the same as it was last year, so they’ve had more time together; their squad is more gelled; the game was only 1-0, which beats the 4-1 shellacking we got last season against them; Ozzie and Burch weren’t on the field, thanks to red cards. OK. Those are all fair points.
To those concessions, however, I make counter-points: Most of the men we put on the field for the season opener were prior-season players, so they should have had plenty of relationship built with each other; in that game, the most non-gelled members of our squad actually performed best; the game might have been 1-0, but we were lucky that’s all it was; Ozzie is too much a crutch for us in the midfield – any time he’s not there, we cry and blame the lack of strength of the midfielders on his absence, and Burch is a solid defender, but hardly a team-breaker.
The plain truth is, the game was a case study in “What to do wrong on the pitch.”
- Goal Keepers off their line.
- Let’s face it – Davey Arnaud shouldn’t have been able to lob that slow chip over Gspurning’s head, and had Michael been on his line, the ball would have been caught, and that would have been the end of the play. But Michael made a fatal mistake by being a good 6 feet forward of his line, and Arnaud was able to smoothly lob the shot over the 6’5″ Austrian.
- Defenders tracking the ball, instead of tracking the play.
- Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Andy Rose made multiple blunders leading up to that goal, including a failure to communicate, and being caught “ball watching”. Had they communicated better, one of them would have guarded Arnaud, and the other would have been free to chase down the ball. The pass would have been locked, and the odds are the cross would have been cleared before it had a chance to get close to the keeper.
- No support for the lone forward.
- A lone forward, on a team that has played (with the exception of a hideously concluded L.A. Galaxy match) a standard, old school 4-4-2 line up. This line-up is designed for forwards like Seattle has: men who are not play makers, but finishers. The idea that Eddie Johnson will be able to keep the ball in possession, while simultaneously making a drive to the net, is absurd at best. A striker like Eddie needs to be fed a ball when he’s in line for a run to the center of the box, or the outer corners of it.
- Having Mauro Rosales play as a rear forward is lunacy. To take him out of the position where he thrives – on the wing – and have him start trying to make pushes up the center of the field plays to weaknesses, not strengths.
- Lackluster midfield work.
- Yes, the work rates of the mids on the team are incredible. There’s not a slacker in the bunch. But the performance of these men has, of late, been lacking. The truth is, a team like Montreal shouldn’t have a chance against the depth of the Seattle roster. The Sounders should be able to run rough-shod over the Impact, with little or no resistance. Instead, they seem to have put up as little fight as possible to do anything more than hold the score ‘close’.
It’s only been two games, and I know that we’re just getting started. There are shining stars in our line up, and steady veterans with the knowledge of decades to teach the new generation. And it’s not all Doom & Gloom. Although the Sounders haven’t shined, they haven’t disgraced themselves. There is not only a light at the end of the tunnel, but that light is blue and green.
The Sounders can come back. They haven’t dug themselves into a hole by any stretch of the imagination. Montreal was a slap in the face – a wake-up call saying “Sounders! Perk up, man up, and straighten up! You’re on the beach, and there’s rough seas ahead!”
Add in the 1-0 loss to Tigres UANL, and the picture looks grim: but a 1-0 loss to a team from Mexico, in Mexico, in an aggregate series, is not bad at all (especially when you consider how questionable the goal was that put that single score on the board). Can we beat them at home on the 12th? Absolutely!
The Sounders might be starting rough, but they’ll come out of the corner swinging after the bell. There’s 33 more chances in MLS play to shine, and the Blue and Green will will be so shiny, it’ll glow in the dark.
~Bleeding Rave Green and Cascade Slate…