The sky isn't falling.
The honeymoon is not over.
Quite simply there are a few issues that have been displayed in the last two matches for Sounders FC, but the situation is certainly not dire. The defense is not a problem. The offense isn't broken. Let's look at some facts concerning the Rave Green after their subpar performance against CD Chivas USA. Then we will look ahead a bit and see what it all means.
Fact - Sounders FC is the 2nd best club in MLS at this time. An expansion club, five matches into their season is #2, not in a weak Western Conference (conference record is WvE of 5-2-5 with a W+4), but number two for the Supporters Shield and entry to the CCL in the group stages.
Fact - Sounders FC have are tied for fewest goals scored against. Or just tied for second. Depends on how you tally an own goal. Damn fine for club with a backup keeper for the majority of two straight matches.
Fact - The Rave Green score at nearly 2 goals a match. Only Chivas tops that.
Fact - a 3 and 0 start raised the expectations here in Seattle. That's a heavy burden, but it is a great one to carry. Would we rather follow a team that that accepts mediocrity, or one that is on a qwest for greatness. Safe(co) isn't my thing anymore.
Fact - if any other player had made the minor error that Freddie Ljungberg did that lead to the own goal by Riley it would have been a mistake, but no one would have suggested that he be benched for it. The historical greatness of Ljungberg and his DP status hold him to a high standard. In this league a DP is considered a failure if they go 7&7 or 5&10. Seriously, Lopez with 7 goals and 7 assists was a failure to most. Five goals and 10 assists was considered pathetic for Beckham. Freddie is at 1 and 1 right now and that isn't good enough for Sounders fans. Fine. Have those high expectations, but understand the burden that the team will carry.
Let's look forward though. There are some problems. The Freddyain don't work well together as currently constituted. Both seem to be playing the same withdrawn forward/center attacking mid role. They are running the same channels and it lets the opposing defense stop them with just three defenders. Ideally if these were kept separate the opposition would have to mark each and use up to two other players just to close the passing lanes. Plus, it would mean that they have enough space to find other outlets rather than just look to the guy 3 yards away. I don't know if the answer is a formation change or not. 4-2-3-1 would look solid, because there is another issue facing the club.
Brad Evans is not good in a wide mid role. Both eventual goals came down the right side, where Evans was playing. We know Brad is a ball winner, we saw it for three matches. But when he's wide he drifts in, as per what Sigi wanted. The problem is that Sigi can't try to cover for Evans by playing him on the side with Riley. Having a good wingback doesn't make up for not playing with e right mid. Evans needs to be in the Center. Maybe not stacked in front of Alonso, but alongside him. LDM/RDM style.
But those three attacking mids, how does that work out? I could tell Sigi not to play Seba, but that would lose some defense. It would strike some as odd, in that there are supposed defensive issues on the club, except for the fact that no club has passed their own average for Shots on Goal when facing the Sounders. Not one of the five opponents to this point. Chivas only had 3, while they averaged nearly 5 in their other four matches.
But what Seattle lacks with Seba or Evans wide in the midfield is a wing player that makes the opponents play on their heals. This very heal play is the core of Sigi's Game. The constant pressure forces errors in judgment or skill. Steve Zakuani has shown that opponents fear him. He was marked on the wing, even without the ball, not just by Chivas, but in his other matches as well. This may lose a little bit of defense in the middle third on the left, but if Alonso is the Left Defensive Mid that mitigates Zakuani's weakness.
Placing either of the Freddyain on the Rightwing would enable them to be roam a little more freely than a traditional RW due to the strength of Riley coming forward in the attack, and with Evans ability to drift wide on occasion. It also places the three strongest runners and ball handlers in places where they can each run separate channels off of Jaqua when he holds the ball with his back to the net.
Ives has had Seattle as low as 9th (preseason) and as high as 1 (week 3), but they are currently at four. Four is not good enough. Sigi, Adrian and team now carry the heavy burden of high expectations. We, the fans and supporters, don't expect a team that contends for a playoff spot anymore. We have tasted the top of the table, and we want to watch the rave green contend for it throughout the season.
This may be unobtainable. But remember the facts, #1 or #2 defense. Top 4 offense. #1 Keeper. #1 Coach. With that reality, what would you expect from that club?
Can the Swedish captain and American keeper lift that burden enough so the rookie heavy club can bear it? That answer is months away, but there are plenty of positive signs, with only some tiny worrying ones. I mean really, what other clubs have the offensive talents of Fredy, Freddie, Jaqua and Zakuani in MLS?