Any Major League Soccer team is going to struggle when multiple key contributors are missing. In that sense, the Seattle Sounders' recent run of three points in five games is not entirely surprising.
But it's not just their record that has head coach Sigi Schmid frustrated, it's that the same issues have been cropping up. Namely, the offense has been woefully absent ever since the Sounders lost Clint Dempsey (suspension and international duty) and Obafemi Martins (injury). During this five-game run, the Sounders have scored just two goals, and the 1-0 loss to the Chicago Fire on Saturday was the third game in which they had failed to score. It's a continuation of the problems the Sounders have had all year when they are missing both Dempsey and Martins, as they've scored just two goals in the seven games they've played without their Designated Player forwards. The Sounders have only been shut out in one of their other 13 matches.
"I thought we played well against DC (a 1-0 win)," Schmid told the media on Monday. "But as well as we played early was as bad as we played against Chicago. It's disappointing that the group was as off as they were.
"We didn't keep possession of the ball and didn't work hard enough up front."
To articulate his frustrations, Schmid pointed out that Tyrone Mears has probably been the Sounders' best offensive player in Dempsey and Martins' absence. Mears' free kick set up the Sounders' goal against the Portland Timbers and he scored the only goal in the match against D.C. United. Against the Fire, Mears took a particularly offensive role and was often marauding into the offensive third, even filling the space you might normally expect to find Dempsey.
"When you look at our goal production, it hasn't been there," Schmid said bluntly. "Are we not putting them in the right situation? The first arrow points at me. I need to make sure I'm working on that.
"The second one is they need to deal with their own performances and not producing. Our leading goal scorer is Tyrone Mears and we need other people need to step up."
Of course, part of the problem to begin with is that Schmid's options are limited. Chad Barrett and Lamar Neagle have combined for a respectable seven goals, but all but one of them has come when the Sounders were at or near full strength. They are the guys Schmid was hoping to lean on while Martins and Dempsey were out.
Beyond them, there's a lot of unproven talent. Andy Craven, Darwin Jones and Victor Mansaray are the most obvious options, but they've got less than 150 MLS minutes between them and have yet to produce a goal or an assist.
But it's sounding increasingly like Schmid may be in an experimental mood.
"Does that mean making some changes, changing some things around, putting some people on the bench, maybe giving some other people a go?" he asked rhetorically. "Maybe that's what needs to happen."