Five of the Seattle Sounders (Chad Marshall, Clint Dempsey, DeAndre Yedlin, Obafemi Martins, & Osvaldo Alonso) made the All-Star roster for Wednesday night’s game against European giants Bayern Munich. No other club has as many players on the All-Star team and that’s something the Sounders should take pride in. That pride, however, will be short-lived if there isn’t a strong showing against Houston, a club that’s managed only six wins in 21 games, on Saturday.
The 2014 season has been a good one for the Sounders. They’re at the top of the Western Conference standings. Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin caught the world’s attention in Brazil, Dempsey went on Letterman, and Chad Marshall has become one of the best defenders in the league. But that was all before the L.A. match last Monday. What was to be an epic clash of the titans, broadcasted nationally by ESPN, turned into an embarrassing 3-0 defeat at home to a dreaded rival. It was a game to forget and move on from, but moving on would prove difficult as they dropped a second straight game in a 1-0 loss in San Jose less than a week later.
The feeling is reminiscent of the crash last year. After a hugely successful midseason, the Sounders failed to come up with one win in the eight games that followed a September 13th win at Salt Lake. The season ended with a 3-2 loss at Portland in November. Fans wanted Sigi Schmid fired. There was talk of Martins leaving. The fall from the top was tough to stomach and if it happens again, heads will roll.
Salt Lake is just two points behind Seattle and the sixth place Whitecaps are only nine points from the lead. Saturday’s match at home to Houston is huge for the Sounders. Another loss and the final stretch will begin to look bleak. L.A. and Salt Lake are getting better each week. They’re experienced teams that know when to peak and that time is fast approaching.
The Sounders are dealing with a Chad Marshall injury and have dealt with a rotating staff at left back all season. At times, as in the L.A. game, the midfield has failed to put together any possession, leaving a weakened back line overworked and stretched. Although Martins and Dempsey have proven to be a strong tandem, they’re only human.
When the midfield isn’t winning balls and the defense is disorganized, the two men up top have looked irrelevant. The Sounders haven’t scored a goal since July 13 (not counting the Tottenham friendly). But these are the obstacles that must be dealt with in order to finish strong and have a shot at an MLS Cup. The Sounders must fight through this adversity to avoid a repeat of last season. Limping into the playoffs is not acceptable, and a strong finish starts with Saturday’s Houston match.