Whether on Sounder at Heart, social media, various podcasts, in the stadium or in local bars, the general vibe of the fan is one that is fairly content. This may seem odd considering that the Seattle Sounders are 6th in the West, 12th in the Shield race, and have claimed only 5 points from their four matches played.
There is a bit of contentment, a willing patience. There are five main reasons for this, the biggest of those being that we get to look at a 30-foot-tall MLS Cup replica and a banner hanging from the rafters.
Winning MLS Cup buys the club time
Only those with the shortest of memories would turn their backs so quickly after winning the biggest trophy the league has to offer. Over the past three years the Sounders won the MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield and US Open Cup. That’s a great stretch. They’ve never finished worse than fourth in the West. Now with the MLS Cup the organization has six major trophies in just eight years. It’s been a pretty amazing run.
Coming from out of nowhere to take the Cup buys even more time
The miracle charge from basically the bottom of the table to champions can grant a false hope that any club can do it, and why can’t Seattle do it again? There could be a point when that’s a bit absurd, but Seattle fans learned in 2016 that being mediocre and getting hot can be enough.
I would rather it not be enough in 2017. Regular seasons with regular dominance are quite a bit of fun (2011, 2014). A dream scenario would be to combine both a successful regular season and a successful post-season.
But those were known before the season started...
Clint Dempsey is back
We cannot write about this enough. Clint is healthy and motivated. CONCACAF and MLS teams should be worried. His goals are both casual
This is @clint_dempsey's first goal since Aug. 21, 2016. pic.twitter.com/uoE2urRj3u— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) March 5, 2017
BRB watching this @clint_dempsey free kick forever. #USAvHON pic.twitter.com/YLXOSOsIVl— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) March 25, 2017
Clint is still a show-off.
Deuce feelin' loose. #SEAvATL pic.twitter.com/MGDPlhRDIl— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 1, 2017
It’s hard to feel down when Clint Dempsey is still playing like Clint Dempsey.
Analytics still love the Sounders
As of April 4 Seattle is second in xGD, 4th in xG and 5th in xGA via American Soccer Analysis. 538 has the Sounders with the 2nd best chance at MLS Cup, 2nd most wins and 3rd most points. They also have Seattle as the only road favorite this weekend.
Expected goals (both 538 and MLSsoccer) saw the Sounders underperform against expectations against Atlanta. They had about a .5 advantage in that game. A draw was disappointing, but...
They’re fun, even when they don’t win
Fun. Sure, a big part of that is Clint, but there’s also the energy and enthusiasm of Cristian Roldan. Young kids are stepping up (HGP Wingo, S2 promotee Delem, sophomore season Alfaro). Joevin Jones looks like the best left back in the league.
They look competitive in every game. There’s no blowouts. The loss was narrow. The miracle draw at Montreal was a joy.
Roster flexibility and faith in Garth Lagerwey
There is flexibility to add another Designated Player, but more than that they have up to six roster spots they can still fill. This already deep team can play the market. Every indication is that they are doing just that.
Derlis, Honda, Kiyotake, Soudani, and Blanco have all been connected to the Sounders in this current transfer window. All of those are dead rumors, except for Derlis Gonzalez, that’s rather exciting and still has the potential to happen.
There were also a handful of trialists in those less exciting depth roles. Seattle will continue to look for backend talent, but even without them the flexibility of Shipp, Evans, Fernandez, Roldan and Svensson reduce the need to add for the sake of adding.
Lagerwey’s deals weren’t all as dramatic as signing Nicolas Lodeiro, but signing the Newcomer of the Year and then winning MLS Cup earned Garth a long leash.
Yes, it’s just a month into the season. Seattle is in the middle of the standings, but as a fan, it feels fine. The trend lines are up. The base analytics show that they are underperforming. There is almost certainly a new shiny thing on the way.
This is the most satisfying mediocre Sounders month in the past eight plus seasons. It will almost certainly get better, even with the rash of road games in April.