Three Notes from the Sounders' Loss to the Galaxy
With all of the good news coming from the organization this past week (signing Paraguay national team regular Nelson Valdez and former Austrian player of the year Andreas Ivanschitz), you would think that the Seattle Sounders would be playing with a bit more spark.
That spark was certainly evident - for all of one minute. Following Chad Barrett's slick goal within the first minute of the game, everything looked like it would go Seattle's way. Until just a few seconds later, during celebration, Barrett pulled his hamstring and was taken off for Cristian Roldan. With only 10 games left in the 2015 MLS season, here are three notes from this loss that the Sounders need to take into account if they want to make it to the playoffs.
1) Return of star players Dempsey, Martins, and Alonso
This is a simple one. In order to win games, you need to have your best performers playing. Without three of their best players, Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, and Osvaldo Alonso, the Sounders' attack looked stagnant and uninspired. After Barrett left with an injury, things looked even worse, as Neagle seemed to be operating on his own in the front.
Once Deuce and Martins return, the Sounders should see in increase in scoring, something they have struggled with as of late (scoring 5 goals total in their last 11 competitive matches). What I think will be an even more significant return will be Osvaldo Alonso in the midfield. Though he isn't a goal scoring force lie Martins or the superstar like Dempsey, he gets the job done, and he is one of the best midfielders when it comes down to gritty play. A lot of problems have come from the midfield, which is where Alonso can provide a solution. Once these players return, expect a newly rejuvenated Sounders side.
2) Integration of newly signed players Valdez and Ivanschitz
Not only will the returning players provide motivation for a lackluster Seattle side, but the new additions from this past week, Valdez and Ivanschitz, should play key roles in the roster as the season winds down.
Nelson Valdez is a proven goal scoring machine having scored nearly 40 goals in over 200 appearances in the Germna Bundesliga. He also reunites with former teammate Obafemi Martins, and with an additional striker to complement Dempsey and Martins, the Seattle attack will certainly instill fear in some opponents. Not only is Valdez a good goal scorer, but he also provides an experience that is hardly matched on this roster, with 68 career caps and 12 goals for the Paraguay national team (including appearances in the 2006 and 2010 world cups). This experience will absolutely be required as the season wanes to a close and discipline will be tested.
Andreas Ivanschitz, although a midfielder, is nearly an identical signing. Also with 15 seasons in top flight European clubs (having last played at Levante in Spain), Ivanschitz is also known for his goal scoring prowess, with over 380 appearances and 62 goals in his professional career, which includes stints in top leagues in Spain and Germany. Not only has he been an excellent player for his club teams, he has also been in top-form internationally, with 69 international caps and 12 goals (along with being the former Number 10 player and becoming the captain at only age 19).
I expect both of these players to come in to the organization with full confidence that they will dominate, helping the slumping Seattle attack test opposing defenses consistently.
3) Confidence following several defeats
With a measly 1 win and 1 draw in their last 11 competitive matches, the Sounders need a change. Although that can certainly come from new and returning players joining the roster, one of the main ways the club can rebound from its slump is if the players regain the confidence that they had all of last season. In their remarkable run to both the U.S. Open Cup title and the Supporters' Shield, the players all meshed and the entire teams seemed to be clicking - from the goalkeeper all the way to the attack.
Sigi Schmid and captain Brad Evans need to address the issues (lack of attack, poor lapses in defense, and huge gaps in the midfield) with the entire team and get the entire organization on board for a late season run. Currently sitting at 6th place in the conference (top 6 teams from each conference make the playoffs) with 32 points after 24 games played, the Sounders are well behind conference leading Vancouver Whitecaps, who have 42 points. If the Sounders can regain their mojo, expect them to be firing on all cylinders come season's end.
With a full, healthy, and motivated roster, these Sounders could do great things this postseason.