Saturday night the Sounders embarrassed themselves. Forget the referee, the crowd, the Montreal Impact. Intensity and focus matter in professional sports and the Sounders did not take the field in Montreal ready to play. There were moments of precision and brilliance from the Sounders. Eddie Johnson's goal was the result of beautiful interplay. But until this Sounders team learns how to play consistently with heart and passion, to give us their Full 90, they will continue to struggle. Timid, docile teams don't win championships.
We've spilled barrels of ink discussing the Sounder's injury woes this season and the depth of the Sounder's bench. But through all of these comments, one thing has not been mentioned. The Sounders seemingly lack the roster depth right now for Sigi Schmid to bench players who are not performing up to their potential. Suspensions and David Estrada's injury only exacerbate the problem. Sigi's interview after the game summed up his frustration. Montreal held up it's end of the bargain and the Seattle players did not.
The 2012 Sounders do not lack skill. They do not lack depth. This team should compete for the Supporter's Shield. They do not have any excuses for not being competitive. But the crown will not pass to them through a rite of hereditary succession. The title will need to be earned and quite frankly, the team did not even earn their paycheck Saturday night. The game was not entertaining. I don't mind seeing a team lose a hard fought contest. I will even root for a weak team that plays with heart. But watching a skilled team go through the motions galls me. I see no reason to panic. This team has the personnel mix to excel. They simply need to learn to seize the game and dictate the tempo of play.
I have been relatively quiet through the break. After my last article, Su Madre, I didn't really have anything else to say. Two US Open Cup wins over lower division opponents, while fun, didn't alter my perspective on what is wrong with the team as a whole. Saturday night's performance only solidified my opinion. This team is being too prissy.
Mauro Rosales and Alvaro Fernandez are Designated Players. While every player on the team shares responsibility for the performance in Montreal, DPs must be held accountable to a higher standard. They are paid a premium to lead this team. Both have been virtually invisible through the Sounder's current funk. Yes, they're nursing injuries. But if they cannot perform, they should not be on the pitch. It may be time for Sigi to let them stew on the bench while the second and third string players step up. What's the worse thing that can happen? The team loses 4-1 after a couple of weeks off to an expansion team?
I want to see Mauro and Flaco perform. I want to see the Sounders as a team succeed. I want to see what this team can do if it is healthy. Normally, I would be waiting with baited breath to see the response of a proud team come back on Wednesday night in Seattle in front of their home fans after a game like the game they had against the Impact. I would warn Sporting Kansas City to be wary. But I am not certain that this team has that pride. I haven't seen it yet. I want to see it. I hope that I see it. But I am not certain that I will. And that uncertainty fuels my frustration.
The coaching staff and the team leaders need to ignite a blow torch under this team. At this point the team's performance is not leaving the coaching staff many options other than to use the bench as kindling. Sporting KC is waiting and so is the bench. Time for the Sounders to put up or sit down.