In a league where it sometimes feels like anything can happen, it's hard to make broad judgment calls after just a couple months of play. But as the Seattle Sounders currently sit at 8th place in the Western Conference, 11 points off the top of the table, any explanation is worth exploring. Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said after Monday's training session that his team is certainly capable of "winning every time we play," but admits that his team have to do much better in front of goal. Another explanation Schmid offers is that MLS is a "topsy-turvy league."
It's true that MLS is unpredictable as this past weekend's results show, but as the saying goes, cream still rises to the top. Schmid said, "certainly over the last seven games, from a result-based, we've done reasonably well. Obviously, we're not exactly where we want to be, but we are going out and trying to win every game." Schmid points out the Sounders' three chances in the first 18 minutes of the match, especially Herculez Gomez's in the first minute, as opportunities that show the team's quality as a whole, and that if even one of those chances had been successful, "the game could have become different."
The Sounders held possession very well against FC Dallas (58%), but possession doesn't matter if you don't get a result. Dallas was perfectly happy to let Seattle pass the ball around, and the home side limited Seattle from making very many dangerous moves towards goal. Schmid brought up his team's excellent shackling of Dallas' Mauro Diaz: "I thought Diaz had some good moments early on but after twenty minutes I thought we bottled him up pretty good." Some mental mistakes led to Dallas' second, as the Sounders were caught off guard by Mauro Rosales' pass and were unable to catch up to Barrios to stop him from scoring. Schmid said that, despite those mistakes and results, "I think we're a team that's capable of winning every game we play." This is perfectly reasonable, as the Sounders are a good team that is capable of winning every match. The problem is, they aren't winning.
Some have floated the idea that maybe the Sounders wouldn't look so bad if they were in the Eastern Conference. This is logical, as they would be in 6th place in the Eastern Conference with their current points tally and goal difference. Sigi Schmid said that he's "always been a fan of the West being better." He said that the coaching stability could contribute to that: Sporting KC's Peter Vermes, San Jose's Dominick Kinnear, LA Galaxy's Bruce Arena, and Schmid himself have all coached in the Western Conference for most of, if not all of their careers. But either way, Schmid clearly sees it as an advantage for the West to be strong, and doesn't excuse the competitive nature of the conference to excuse his team's current position on the table.
The good news is that the Sounders have already flexed their muscles against the Eastern Conference this season, winning three out of three against teams from the East. Potentially even better news for Seattle is that five out of their next six league matches are against Eastern Conference opponents. If the Sounders want to get anywhere near the playoffs this season, they'll need to aim for at least ten points from those five matches, if not more. Beating up on the East might be just what Seattle needs to get their season back on track.