Beware the Ides of March, they say. Shut it, Caesar! What do you know?
Heading into the beginning of the 2014 season, the Seattle Sounders had some demons to exorcise. Sigi Schmid had to prove that their epic collapse in the Supporters' Shield race was a fluke, and that Seattle was capable of better than their unceremonious playoff exit to the Portland Timbers.
It was a nervous time, many new faces would suit up for the Sounders in the four March games, pitting Seattle against some of the best and worst the Eastern Conference had to offer. Seattle brought in has-been's and could-be's to replace the production from the Sounders of old; new starters like Chad Marshall, Stefan Frei, and Marco Pappa. Kenny Cooper got a few starts, same with Gonzalo Pineda and Michael Azira, while Chad Barrett, Sean Okoli, Cam Weaver, and Jalil Anibaba all contributed minutes in the Sounders first four games.
March also brought the return of Clint Dempsey, who finished his offseason loan to Fulham. In his first month back in Seattle Dempsey contributed one goal, one assist, one sacktap, and a two-game suspension. It wasn't the start we had expected from him. But it also brought out newly re-signed Designated Player Osvaldo Alonso, who is just the bees' knees.
A new lineup greeted the Sounders for every match, but the defense remained constant. DeAndre Yedlin, Marshall, Djimi Traore, and Dylan Remick started all four games in front of Frei. With Leo Gonzalez out with injury, It wasn't until Traore received a red card against Columbus Crew that another player started in defense for Seattle.
The month started off well: MLS First-Kick against the reigning MLS Cup Champions Sporting Kansas City. If you're lost figuring out which stoppage time game-winning goal gave us the 1-0 victory over SKC, it was Barrett's 94th minute tap-in. It was the perfect start.
Following that was a visit from the newly $100 million Toronto FC, complete with Michael Bradley, Gilberto, and Jermain Defoe. It also was the introduction of Marco Pappa as Public Enemy No. 1 as the Guatemalan midfielder gifted Defoe the two goals due to his colossal cockups, which saw Toronto take all three points against the Sounders. It was also Dempsey's first start of the season and saw him intimately become familiar with Mark Bloom's testicles. Beware the Balls of Bloom, the MLS Disciplinary Committee cried, as they slapped the USMNT caption with a two game suspension.
As a result, Sigi pulled out a 4-3-3 lineup against Montreal Impact, as the Sounders traveled South to the capital of Quebec. An early goal in both halves by Lamar Neagle and Obafemi Martins saw Seattle claim their second victory in three tries, as well as their second shut out. It was the team's first ever victory against the Impact du Montreal, which was a huge monkey off any team's back. The 4-3-3 was declared a rousing success and people neglected to recognize it was effective against Montreal and that Montreal was, and is still currently, absolute shit.
Coming back home for the final game in March, Seattle hosted the undefeated Crew in their third home game of the season. It was a contentious match that Seattle had a good chance at winning, following Kenny Cooper's first Seattle goal. It wasn't until Traore gave up a penalty and earned a red card early in the 2nd half that the tables turned. Following the resultant goal, Seattle weathered the storm well and looked to end March with a draw against a good Columbus team. But referee Alan Chapman and Crew players Justin Meram and Federico Higuain combined to score a 94th minute goal of their own, one that should not have stood.
That goal ended March on a sour note. Seattle finished with a 2-2-0 record, good for 6 points in 4 matches, a 1.50 ppg, which ended up being well below their season mark of 1.88. In those five matches they scored 5 goals while giving up 4.
Sigi had yet to find the lineup formula that truly worked for this team, but he played two and a half games without Clint Dempsey. Leo Gonzalez was nearing a full-health return, Zach Scott hadn't made his revelatory resurgence as the preferred Centerback pairing with Chad Marshall, and Seattle was just learning about the value in having Gonzalo Pineda man the double pivot with Ozzie. Frei looked shaky, Marco Pappa had been deemed a bust by some, but the Sounders didn't dig themselves a hole they couldn't get out of, it wasn't that bad. The Sounders did not exorcise those demons from 2013.
Goal of the Month
Chad Barrett vs Sporting Kansas City - 94th Minute - March 8th
Quote of the Month
"I was excited to just be on the bench, you know. The pregame festivities and just to see the crowd and the Emerald City Supporters' section just yelling the entire game, it's so loud, and then when I scored I couldn't even hear myself screaming. I'm pretty sure I was screaming or I was going through puberty, one of the two. I couldn't hear myself scream. I was telling the guys that haven't scored here yet that it's just an unbelievable feeling, especially with all 40,000 people staying until the very end." - Chad Barrett 3/8/14