Early in my professional life, I was a salesman. Many lessons were learned about people, business, and life (mostly learning from bad examples and what not to do). One of those lessons I took to heart was how to effectively and properly set expectations. This went for my customers and my boss, and eventually bled into the rest of my daily interactions.
Never over promise. Always over deliver.
Provided this is something that people want to see on a regular basis, the posts would be comprised of:
- Moving the Posts In (rein in expectation)
- Moving the Posts Out (raising expectations)
- In Range (meeting expectations)
- From the Half Way Line (extra curricular editorial on expectations from around the league)
This week, it's after the ugly win over Dallas, but will encompass performances through thus far into the season.
Moving the Posts In: Clint Dempsey.
6 goals in 4 games (3 of those starts) - Deuce has saved us twice in a row and knicked 3 points in 2 games (1 in Portland, 2 in Dallas). Obviously this cannot sustain, otherwise Dempsey ends the season with 48 goals this season (averaging 1.5 goals a game over the next 28). Throughout the season, I'm sure he will continue to score and have a strong influence on the season as a whole, but that level of direct influence is where you have to put expectations into check. Just look at Luis Suarez of Liverpool, he still has strong influence over games but isn't putting goals away at the same (record setting) pace as he did early on in the season. There has to be ebbs to the strongest flows. It could be Clint is affected as a result of the World Cup break, slight fatigue from off season loans or (hopefully not) injury, there will be a time where Dempsey will hit a rough patch and the team as a whole will have to do it's part to sustain goal scoring. Realistically, I expect everyone already knew this, but I wanted to bring balance to the universe as most recent articles (nationally) have lavished Dempsey with praise and stories of redemption of last season. Last season's numbers are the effective inverse to the beginning of this year, and when combined I believe is a more accurate picture of Dempsey's effectiveness. While his numbers (and maybe execution) weren't reflecting well last season, his play was still as dynamic as it is now. Expectations may need to come down a little bit, but that doesn't mean we can't hope he averages 1.5 goals a game.
Moving the Posts Out: Defense.
1.6~ GAA (10 goals conceded in 6 games) does not a champion make. On the good side, 6 of those 10 goals were over one and a half of those games which did not feature our starting CB, and our starting LB is just getting up to speed. While we may have been exposed for lack of pace (and potentially lack of midfield possession) by Toronto on 2 of those goals, the 2 in Dallas were pure gaffes by individuals which leaves us in pretty good standing once we account for a consistent starting back line. There is also the lack of cohesion currently found in our holding/defensive midfield to account for, which one can reasonably expect improves with either personnel changes or tactical adjustments. Combine those reasonable and realistic improvements, and you have the makings of what could potentially be Seattle's best ever defense. Now, this isn't to say I expect a shutout the rest of the way (and we may find ourselves adjusting the goal posts again during the season) but we can feel relatively confident that the defense will tighten up. Expectations for this defense should be a marked improvement.
In Range: Stefan Frei.
Coming into the season, there were murmurs around the goalkeeping situation. Sounders fans have been spoiled the last 4 years with consistently high level MLS goalkeeping (barring the aberration at the end of last year). Keller and Gspurning were excellent between the pipes, commanded their defenders and controlled the 18 yard box. Gspurning had a tough act to follow, but Frei comes into the role with slightly lowered expectations after the G-man collapse, and it seems he is quite even to that task. It doesn't seem as if the defense really needs commanding (two very experienced CBs), nor does Frei control the 18 with size or aggression. He makes the saves he should, doesn't save what he shouldn't. Admittedly, I've not watch a lot of Frei tape from years past, but from recollection there wasn't anything that stood out. Being the longest serving TFC player doesn't endow one with accolades. It seems that an average keeper returning from injury has rounded back into form. This isn't a bad thing, but it isn't something where someone should harbor expectations of wildly better performances through the season. He will have a great game and save what he shouldn't but he will also have another Dallas game and watch a ball slip from his fingers, and we will know that is what was to be expected. I do believe the numbers right now are a touch harsh and will begin to even out after a few good defensive performances, but the quality of play between the sticks is par for the course.
From the Half Way Line: Eddie Johnson.
His moving on was the biggest addition (by subtraction) this team could have achieved. Maruo coming back would have been nice, Gspurning coming back would have been nice, Zakuani (rest his Rave Green soul) coming back would have been nice, but no change could have had a bigger impact than the removal of EJ. I acknowledge the man had an effective (but limited) skill set, but I don't believe he fully appreciated the quality of play surrounding him and allowing him to express that skill set at his highest level. He is the Carmelo Anthony of soccer. Give me the ball perfectly, I'll do something except pass it, please don't expect me to defend. I understand he wants/needs/deserves to get paid, I don't begrudge him for that, but I never thought he was worth a whole lot more than he made. He didn't make the team better, only the occasional result. For me, Eddie is not yet meeting expectations as I believe he will have a handful of goals before the end of the season, but he won't see the same success (individually or on the club level) as he did with Seattle.