Brotherly Game) Seattle has gotten off to a rocky start, going 1-1-3 and losing their first three straight. What caused such a hard, fast fall and what can turn it around?
Dave Clark, Sounder at Heart) After looking damn good against Club America the Seattle Sounders floundered to start the season. In most of the losses Clint Dempsey wasn't seeing the ball in dangerous areas, which limited both his own opportunities and his chance creation. They've since moved him to the central midfield which has further limited his shots and creation, but they did get four points in those two games.
The failures go beyond Dempsey, and beyond bad luck (Fisher's red was one of the first in this year's crackdown, the first penalty against in the Vancouver game was the worst penalty call I've seen in my life). Jordan Morris looks tentative. Once fun loving and free-flowing with a Dempsey-like game, his approach as a pro is cautious and safe. Morris needs to play like the beast that ran over the USSDA like a Tarrasque on rampage ripping through commoners and knights alike. Every bit of talent that earned him multiple awards and plaudits is still there. Whatever mental leash is on him needs to be cut.
Valdez might be the best forward in MLS, who doesn't score goals. He's a ball winner, consummate worker, a strong defender and a DP with three goals and an assist in 1146 competitive minutes. Nelson would be a perfect TAM talent, but he's taking a DP slot so expectations are higher.
tBG) Losing Obafemi Martins to Shanghai was huge. Who does Seattle have as his replacement, and do you think they will be bringing in anyone in during the Summer Transfer Window?
SAH) There is no replacement for Oba. The original plan was to have a replacement by committee. That committee of Nelson Haedo Valdez, Andreas Ivanschitz and Jordan Morris has just four shots a game and 3.1 key passes a game for a single goal and single assist. Last year Obafemi Martins had 2 shots a game and a key pass a game, averaging two goals every three games. Frankly, the committee is failing. That's why every full time scout (or scout type) in the organization is traveling the world looking for a new DP and a new TAM level talent. The DP will be a creative midfielder with the TAM player probably being a winger or box-to-box midfielder, though if a forward drops into their laps they'll take it. That DP will almost certainly be under 25 as the team looks to extend its trophy window (Dempsey, Alonso, Valdez, Ivanschitz, Marshall, Evans are all long in the tooth now).
Short term the offense has to come from the committee above, new signing Herculez Gomez or wunderkid Oalex Anderson. That's enough talent that it should be getting goals, but it's not Oba. It won't be Oba. Oba is gone and it sucks to think of what might have been.
tBG) We remember Michael Farfan well from his time with the Union. How does he fit in with Seattle?
SaH) Poorly. He's not only been injured for almost his entire time with the team, when he does play (two appearances with S2, one in preseason) he does not look good. At this point it seems more likely that the team sign Zach Mathers to an MLS deal than it does for Marfan to be an effective option in the MLS 18. While they need a bench creative midfielder once the roster is complete Ivanschitz and Kovar will also be able to fill that role.
Roman Torres is still recovering from knee surgery. Both Nelson Haedo Valdez and Erik Friberg could return as early as this match.
Predicted starting XI:
Stefan Frei; Joevin Jones; Chad Marshall, Brad Evans, Tyrone Mears; Osvaldo Alonso, Cristian Roldan; Clint Dempsey; Andreas Ivanschitz, Jordan Morris, Herculez Gomez