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Sounders’ goal woes: Many questions, scarce answers

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The Seattle Sounders served up another goose egg in front of 39,508 at CenturyLink Field Saturday.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

SEATTLE — Held scoreless for the seventh time in 10 league matches, the Seattle Sounders have looked increasingly frustrated in the attacking end. The frustration was evident against Real Salt Lake Saturday, where despite taking nine shots inside RSL’s penalty area, Seattle could not punch a ball into the back of the net.

Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer wasn’t happy with the lack of production.

“We need to be creating more and better chances because we haven’t scored,” Schmetzer said. “Nine chances inside the box and you can’t score. What do you do?

“We had numerous chances inside the box and we can’t score. Something has to break for us.”

Nearly a third of the way through the season, the Sounders are currently on pace to finish 2018 with 24 goals for, the second-lowest total posted by any club since the adoption of the 34-match schedule.

That is not to suggest that the 2018 Seattle Sounders will end up like the 2013 D.C. United side that finished with 22 goals scored. Seattle has been beset by a bizarre combination of injuries, international call-ups, and niggling setbacks that have sidetracked their quest to such an extent that even Odysseus would shake his head sympathetically.

Still, after 180 minutes of scoreless soccer at home (and exactly 180, thanks to Jordy Delem’s last-second insurance goal against Minnesota United), the question of where the goals will come from in the immediate future must be begged.

Clint Dempsey has not looked like the 2017 incarnation that led the squad with 12 goals. Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer defended Dempsey after the match, largely centering on the fact that the Texas native is not suited to playing as a pure number 9.

“I think Clint has been a very good player for this club, for this franchise,” Schmetzer said. “I think he’s, you know, nearing the end of his career, and that’s not an easy position for him to play. It’s not his natural position.

“I think that you should take him for what he has been, what he is – a good goal-scorer. We just need to make sure that he’s in the right spots and that he gets the right service. That’s our challenge and that’s been our challenge. When Will [Bruin] was out there, Will does some of that heavy lifting for Clint. And Clint can pick spots and kind of do his thing. So it’s been a challenge throughout the season with injuries, but the one to Will is a big one.”

With Bruin out for the foreseeable future with a partially torn plantar fascia, and Handwalla Bwana offered up to the injury gods in the 33rd minute Saturday with a foot injury, it’s not clear where Seattle can turn to find goals in the coming weeks, apart from a marked improvement in finishing their chances.

Midfielder Cristian Roldan, at least, thinks more possession may hold the key.

“I think keeping possession is one way,” Roldan said. “Another way is once we get it on the counterattack, play it forward, all teams in the world score goals off breaks. That’s the reality of things. You’ll score more goals on breaks than if you have 30 passes in a row and then score a goal.”

The question now for Seattle, is how to capitalize on the remaining speed on the roster as the club waits for players to heal and return from international duty.

For Schmetzer, it’s back to the drawing board before next week’s road game against RSL.

“You have to just challenge them,” Schmetzer said. “And that’s what I did in there. I just challenged them to say, look, this is is a tough time. And there’s only one way we can go, which is up. So, they have to put the work in. They have to come ready to work on Tuesday, and make sure that they’re prepared – not just physically, but mentally to try and correct some of the things that we will show them on tape. And we’ll highlight some of the things they did accomplish some of the chances they did create.”