It has been said that great goal-scorers are just wired different. That to be a great goal-scorer they just need to cope with failure in a way that others can’t really fathom. They need to have confidence that just because they miss a penalty or, say, botch a sitter that they’ll convert the next chance.
Let it be said that Clint Dempsey has these particular personality quirks in spades.
It’s that kind of confidence that leads to Demspey leaving no doubt as to who would take the penalty with the Sounders locked in a scoreless tie against their biggest rivals with their playoff hopes very much on the line. It’s that kind of confidence that leads him to doing it just one game after he failed to convert a penalty, and only minutes after he couldn’t put a wide open chance on frame. It’s that kind of confidence that lets him got right down the middle with his penalty attempt, bringing upon one of the loudest cheers CenturyLink Field has ever heard. It may have gotten even louder when Dempsey calmly slid home a left-footed effort to effectively seal the result.
This has not been a great year for Dempsey, not by a long shot. But here we are with 10 games left to play and he’s now on eight goals. Sure, it can be argued that he should have more like 10 or 12, but he’s going to end up with a pretty respectable haul when it’s all said and done.
The one thing we know after the 3-1 win over the Timbers is that Dempsey’s confidence is in absolutely no danger of going anywhere. At some point, that will probably be a problem. His mind is going to eventually believe his body can do things it’s simply no longer capable of. But now is not that time. Thank goodness.
Jordan Morris is a beast: By any reasonable metric, Morris should have had at least one goal and an assist. He had neither, of course, and he deserves some level of criticism. He was certainly willing to hand some out himself.
I need to do better with my finishing but all that matters is the 3 points! Big time win. Thanks to all the fans. You guys were amazing! #— Jordan Morris (@JmoSmooth13) August 22, 2016
Weirdly, though, this may have been his best all-around game for the Sounders. Morris was an absolute beast. It was his hard work that created a breakaway chance from really nothing in the first half. He then fought off three defenders to earn a free kick late in the game. He was, seemingly, everywhere and found a way to influence the game even when he wasn’t getting much service.
That’s the sign of a player who’s coming into his own. He’s not letting his failure to convert every good chance get him down. He’s instead finding new ways to impose himself. That should have us all very excited.
How about a little love for Cristian Roldan? He ended up with a goal and an assist and also drew the penalty, so it’s not like Roldan’s performance is in any danger of being totally overlooked, but he deserves a ton of praise for his performance. No one has seen his game raise levels under Brian Schmetzer quite like Roldan has, and it’s hard not to see it as a direct result of being given a role and being allowed to just focus on that.
In the four games under Schmetzer, Roldan has basically been asked to be Osvaldo Alonso’s mirror image. It’s something he has occasionally been asked to do throughout his time with the Sounders, but never so consistently. He’s absolutely flourished.
Gone are the indecisive passes or a tendency to get caught out of position. Instead, we’re seeing a player who expertly picks his spots, pops up wherever he’s needed and breaks up opposition attacks with alarming regularity. It’s no coincidence that he’s drawn penalties in each of the past two games, something the Sounders had only done once in the previous 22. He also completed 89 percent of his 55 passes, had three successful tackles and generally gave the Timbers fits all evening.
Roldan has been so good, in fact, there’s even a conspiracy theory making the rounds that the 12 teams who passed on him in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft were somehow compelled to do it (because he was so OBVIOUSLY a star in the making) by ... well someone or something. When you’re at the heart of a conspiracy theory, you know you’ve done something right.
Roldan was arguably the Sounders best midfielder, which is really saying something when you consider Osvaldo Alonso was as good as ever and Nicolas Lodeiro was on the field.
OK, let’s talk about the p-word: Against all odds, we are looking like a team that will be playing meaningful matches in October and possibly beyond. It’s crazy, I know, but a win on Wednesday would actually put the Sounders in a playoff spot. Even if they lose that game, they could still be there by this time next week if they win in Portland on Sunday.
We’re still a long way off from actually making the postseason for an eighth consecutive year, but a month ago this was not the conversation we expected to be having.