Seattle Sounders FC falls to 0-2-1 -2 GD after a Saturday night loss to the San Jose Earthquakes. It was one of their five shots from outside the box that Chris Wondolowski deftly slotted past Michael Gspurning, but it was the only one that will matter. Seattle would take nine shots from outside the box, only two on target and none would reach the net.
There were many problems for the Sounders. It was one of the rare times with Osvaldo Alonso playing that they lost the 50/50 battle. But it was also a night on which they depended even more than usual on open play crosses. Unlike 2012 that strategy is not working. The depleted roster is part of that, but so is the effectiveness of the crossing ability of Mauro Rosales. The Argentine DP only completed two of six open play crosses.
Despite Seattle being the better passing team overall it was the Earthquakes that created more shot opportunities. Five of their nine key passes per Opta were from Ramiro Corrales the aged midfielder on DeAndre Yedlin's side of the pitch. Not all can be blamed on the HGP, but the MLS original had his way on the evening.
Sigi Schmid's defensive structure on the whole is doing decent. Giving up a goal a match over a full season would be just fine. Scoring only once in MLS play is not. Tonight the team tried to lean on Steve Zakuani. He won most of the battles, whether via dribble, a won corner, a foul Zakuani created. And then there was no one to try hit with a pass, of his 10 unsuccessful passes only two weren't into the box.
This team needs more threats. Next week they will have those. But they also need the oft-praised depth to perform at the quality it has in the past. San Jose was the more depleted side and they won. Wondolowski's shot came after direct play. Anyone who claims that there is one way to play soccer ignores how San Jose won. It was simple play, dynamic and it beat a side that did not implement those tactics as well.
Seattle has now dropped points in every match (two at home, one away being the baseline for a quality side). Three games into the season there are warning signs. Some depth players have not made the progress from '12 to '13 and some of the top end are nowhere near the quality that they've been over the past two years.
Panic at this point is absurd. The club is two wins away from being the best team in CONCACAF. But it is also fifty points in 31 matches from a Playoff spot. It is offensively broken and defensively sound. There will not be the rashness of LA 2004. The problem is not tactical. Players are clearly not executing. Poor crosses are not the fault of coaching. But they also can not continue.
Seattle next plays at Salt Lake on 30 March at 6 PM Pacific. It does not get easier. Shortly after that they host Santos Laguna in the CCL semis.