For all the woes of the Seattle Sounders in 2016, at least they are a respectable 4-2-0 +3 at home. Two of those losses were back during the opening season's poor stretch. Recently they are 4-0-0 +5, with only Philly scoring against them. This is not to say that beating the Colorado Rapids at 7 PM on Saturday night will be easy. The Rapids are the best team in the league. Jermaine Jones as a number 10 is working and Colorado have only been shutout twice in their six road matches (1-2-3 -1). Seattle isn't in must win territory quite yet, but it is close.
jpatrickrosch of Burgundy Wave answers Three Questions to get you ready for the match.
SaH: This Jermaine Jones thing is real. What's his addition meant to the club?
BW: It is real for sure and that addition has been, arguably, the biggest signing in club history. He has helped to transform a team that was boring and quite honestly an easy result for opposing teams. Jones has brought a steely toughness to the Rapids that has been lacking over the years and, as strange as it sounds, a true #10 to the Burgundy Boys. He has raised the game of the players around him and his partnership with Shkelzen Gashi and Kevin Doyle has turned this team into one of the more dangerous in Major League Soccer.
SaH: Is there a best way to break down the defense?
BW: Honestly, I would try and catch the Rapids on the counter. For as good as the defense has been, they lack a bit of speed in the middle. This is certainly not a knock on Bobby Burling or Axel Sjoberg--they are just not the speediest of guys. If you can catch the Rapids on the counter and get inbetween Sam Cronin and Micheal Azira, success can be found. The Rapids are still a defense first team, so opponents need to be patient in breaking the Rapids down.
The Rapids are only surrendering 3.5 shots on goal per game, and have only given up 9 goals over 12 games--so patience is required--but also making the most of the chances you get as you might not get very many.
SaH: Are fans starting to think "this could be the year?"
BW: "The Year." Honestly, I think fans right now are super excited that we don't suck. The fact that we have gotten off to this start is the proverbial icing on the cake. Do we think this could be the year? Well in 2010 we went in the playoffs as a 7 seed and we were just happy to be there. And that season ended with the Rapids raising the Cup and getting the star on the jersey. I think the issue now is the weight of expectation could start to creep in if this run continues.
But most fans know that the West is stacked. Many of the teams in the Western Conference could have an argument that this could be their year and I think that Rapids fans are being practical and realistic. But awfully dang excited for how things are going. This team is for real and if they keep this up should be in the conversation as the year goes on.
(4-2-3-1)--Zac MacMath, Marc Burch, Bobby Burling, Axel Sjoberg, Mekeil Williams, Sam Cronin, Micheal Azira, Shkelzen Gashi, Jermaine Jones, Luis Solignac, Kevin Doyle
★ ★ ★
BW: The Sounders are 4-2-1 in their last seven. What is working that was not working in the first three?
SaH: Seattle can still possess the ball and defend well. That means when they score they are likely to get points. Getting Morris on that scoring streak, mostly via the throughball, was vital. If they can get goals from he and Dempsey things look pretty good. But that has been difficult this season. Between the lack of creativity and finishing the attack needs help.
BW: The Sounders are struggling in front of the net with just a goal a game this season. Why the challenges?
SaH: There's only one player with a recent history of goal scoring (Clint Dempsey), and he's been poor so far this season. Designated Player Nelson Haedo Valdez has yet to score or assist this season (though one clear goal was blocked by a teammate). Herculez Gomez is putting in wonderful effort, but not scoring. Less well known names at forward also aren't scoring (Kovar, Ivanschitz, Anderson, D.Jones). Losing Obafemi Martins leaves a huge wound in the attack and we have yet to heal it.
Jordan Morris is the lone bright spot in the attack. He's wonderful.
BW: What is the mood in the Emerald City? Is there concern with the slow (for Seattle) start?
SaH: Things are dire. It's unusual for the Sounders to be out of the playoff picture, and their performance completely justifies it. Even if/when everything goes right with injuries and form they only look like an average team, at best. The level of angst in the community is large. I can't say that it is undeserved. The good thing is that the Sounders have games in hand, a DP slot open and enough TAM to sign a high value player in addition. There are reasons for hope, if they can maintain they pace that ignores the first three games.
Stefan Frei; Joevin Jones, Zach Scott, Brad Evans, Tyrone Mears; Cristian Roldan; Osvaldo Alonso, Erik Friberg; Andreas Ivanschitz, Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris
Projected Score - 2-1 Sounders