Seattle – for the first time in their modern history – dating back to their original birth in 1994 – Seattle Sounders Play a match without any break effects. It wasn’t a situation many of us could have imagined as recently as a couple of months ago, but few could argue that it was well deserved.
Perhaps it was appropriate, then, that the end of the season be against San Jose Earthquakes Sunday was a bit of a microcosm of the season.
There was a promising start, a potential compensatory midfield and a frustrating finish at the end as the Sounders were unable to hold a 1-0 or 2-1 lead before settling for a 2-2 draw.
Despite picking up the second-closest goal in franchise history – after a beautiful shot from Nicolas Lodeiro in just 23 seconds – and adding another Lodeiro golazo in the second half, it was the ninth time this year that the Sounders failed to secure three points in a game. they drove. Those nine games cost the Sounders 23 points. A year ago, the Sounders dropped points from just four-time winning positions that cost them a total of 10 points. If the Sounders could equalize it, they’d have enough points to finish third in the Western Conference.
The Sounders allowed their first equaliser after just three minutes of lead, which is another ongoing problem this year. It was the fifth time they had conceded a goal less than five minutes after scoring and the third time that had occurred in their last 10 matches. The Sounders lost six points in those last three games, enough to make up the difference between losing and making the playoffs.
“It was a frustrating night,” said Sounders goalkeeper Stephen Cleveland, who started his first game about three months ago after it was revealed Stephen Fry was playing with a separated ligament in his ribs. “We controlled the game really, really well and conceded two goals. We will be disappointed when we look back.”
Depending on your point of view, these statistics can lead to several different conclusions.
On the optimistic side, it’s tempting to get to the kind of thing that can be fixed by reintroducing a field leader like Joao Paulo. The defensive midfielder appears to be making good progress after ACL surgery and should be back in time for next season. It’s at least within the realm of possibilities that he will return to something close to caliber 2021 MVP form and the Sounders will return to their winning ways.
The most pessimistic would likely use these struggles as evidence of a systemic failure. They will see it as evidence that the Sounders are simply not responding to their coaches or that the talent isn’t there. In this release, the Sounders are at the beginning of a much-needed rebuilding process that could take years to actually complete.
Perhaps not surprisingly, I fall somewhere in the middle. It is often said that hope is not a plan. Despite all that the Sounders have done well over the years, even major organizations can fall into bad habits. The winning organization is often reluctant to make changes for fear of unnecessarily upsetting the boat. As General Manager Garth Lagerwey He recently said in an interviewMissing the qualifiers provides an opportunity to take a serious look at the various processes.
Sounders coach Brian Schmitzer hinted that one of those things might be in how he treats players.
“I’ve been pretty much a player coach – if that’s a label I want to put it down to me – and there are times when guys take advantage of that,” Schmitzer said. “We’ll try to tighten things up in terms of timings and training, and we’ll take a look at that.”
Schmetzer didn’t explain what he really meant, but I think part of it could have to do with the idea that the list felt a bit outdated. This is not only because he has changed only a little bit from last year and even less during the season, because there has never been a real sense of in-house competition for positions. With rare exceptions, the depth chart has never changed from week to week. If the starters were available, their spots were effectively inked. This may seem a little counter-intuitive when you realize that 21 different players have had at least five entries – two more than last year – but that mostly speaks to the amount of rotation made by injury or international duty.
Fostering this kind of in-house competition has always been a challenge for MLS teams that still lack the flexibility of the roster to facilitate this, but there are enough young talent on the roster to suggest at least that is possible.
I’m not the first to notice that this has been a very strange season for the Sounders. The historic failure to make the playoffs must be placed in the context of the coming months after the phenomenal achievement of winning the CCL. To suggest that this season has been a failure is to be completely trapped by the present. But this is no reason to resist change. In order to remain one of the best teams in the MLS, the Sounders must evolve. Hopefully this will facilitate the next big step.