Steve Kelley is a soccer friendly mainstream writer. He's at US Open Cup games. He travels to CCL matches. He is often at regular season games. He occasionally goes to practice, has broken a story or two and his feature on Carrasco/Morgan was well done. He can also be dramatically wrong, as he was in his column about the Sounders needing someone to "light a fire under whiny Sounders."
Let's break it down a little point-by-point. as well as the overarching theme. While there's a FanPost on this subject already, I'd be writing the world's longest comment, so pardon my writing a post.
The First Four Paragraphs
These are about how Adrian Hanauer and Company built the team to be great, the particular focus is on the offense, and the forwards. Paragraph five then goes to failure. The location of this paragraph assumes a failure by the most talented players on the team. Lumping the forwards with the wingers though is a mistake. Entering today's match only three teams have clearly better forward pairings than the Sounders (San Jose, New York and DC). Seattle's tandem of Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero are on par (1.02 PPM, 3 GWG) with Real Salt Lake (1.05, 4) and the LA Galaxy "forwards (1.04 and 3)."
There are failures in the offense, but even obliquely targeting the forwards is wrong. Seattle's forward core (including their 3rd man David Estrada) is as good and as deep as any but the absurdly good Earthquakes. The offensive woes are with the wingers, and only the wingers.
Bad Defense Next (we'll get back to this, as it's only one paragraph)
Lacking Fire and Undisciplined
... intimidated by bigger and stronger teams like Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City, and they've reacted to that intimidation immaturely.
They have received three red cards, tying them with Real Salt Lake ...
So the measuring stick is RSL, but they are also the problem? That makes little sense. In fact it makes none. And while we're looking at the fair play table (which teams get carded the least) let's note that near Seattle are RSL, San Jose, and Red Bull - shameful company that. If you pay attention just to fouls committed, Seattle is among the 5 of 6 top teams that are also Playoffs teams.
Psychologically Fragile & Physically Soft
The prime example of this is asking for transparency in the Open Cup draw process. Kelley acts as if this is new, but the complaints about lack of transparency in how the USSF operates was mentioned by GM/minority owner Adrian Hanauer back in 2009. Hans Backe agreed this year. Neither time was this an example of entitlement or whining.
Cosmos v Lunchbox League
The Sounders are little like the Cosmos. They don't have the highest payroll. They don't have rockstars in their lockerroom. There aren't a group of coke adicts hanging around the team.
They also aren't a lunchbox team. Then again neither is the reigning MLS Cup and two time Supporters' Shield holder Galaxy, nor RSL, nor Sporting KC, nor Red Bull New York. Of the top tier teams in MLS only San Jose could be called lunch box.
After listing off all of the leaders lost (most who weren't regular starters) Kelley then points out that one of the few leaders added is Marc Burch. Several paragraphs ago Kelley called out the defense for being poor. He now claims the only leader on the team is on that poor defense. In fact Burch started a majority of the matches during the slide as Leo Gonzalez was hurt. If your symbol of proper leadership is also a part of the biggest problem facing the team maybe you should reevaluate what leadership means.
Failures by Montero, Johnson, Fernandez
Again, review above. Montero is certainly streaky, but so are forwards in any league. Are he and Johnson working well together? Maybe not. They certainly aren't working worse than Montero with Fucito, Ochoa, Noonan, Jaqua, Nkufo did.
Here we get to something to which I must agree. Alvaro Fernandez is struggling. He is not at his 2010, let alone 2011 form. He's a better player than he's showing and few know why. Also struggling is the other DP winger, someone who is not mentioned. Mauro Rosales was an MVP candidate and now he's just a guy.
This is franchise worth rooting for, but this is a team that has been hard to love. Someone needs to light a fire. A leader needs to emerge because the dream of an MLS Cup is fading fast.
Playoff structure makes that finale false. While the Supporters' Shield is nearly out of reach, the MLS Cup Playoffs are a short tourney where one team can get hot and draw their way to victory like Salt Lake did in 2009.
Maybe the lack of space meant that Kelley needed to skip a bunch of supporting paragraphs, but at this time this seems like a forced narrative rather than a valid critique of a team that is currently struggling.