It had been a few weeks since we saw the Seattle Sounders in action and based on the result Sunday night, you wouldn't blame anyone for wanting to go a few more weeks like that. There's just no way to sugarcoat how poor Seattle were against Atlanta United, a team struggling for form and an identity (sound familiar?). Sure, the Sounders did have moments to make something happen but they just weren't good enough from start to finish. Here are five things we saw from the match:
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Three weeks of what?
The Sounders had three weeks of rest and recuperation after bowing out of the Leagues Cup in the group stage. One line of thinking that the time off would be good for Seattle to get some players healthier and work on different things in training. Well, if Sunday night's match was an indication, the break did more harm than it did good.
The first half was the flattest that the Sounders have looked all season. They rolled out effectively the same lineup that they had against Monterrey and lacked an overall sense of urgency. To make matters worse, they went down 1-0 just 11 minutes into the match. Atlanta's Georgios Giakoumakis was able to get onto the end of a routine corner kick and the rest is history.
It's still too early to tell if this was just a tactic for Atlanta or if this is a long term shift, but the Sounders came out with a different pressing setup in the first half on Sunday. Typically this season Seattle pressed in a 4-4-2 midblock, meaning their two forwards would block passing lanes but not really engage with a lot of pressure. However, against Atlanta, the Sounders pressed with a pretty aggressive 4-3-3 setup, with a few weird tweaks.
Instead of having Leo Chu and Jordan Morris be aggressive on the wings, Chu would slide inside as the 3rd central midfielder with Nico Lodeiro jumping out to the left wing, pressing like a mad man. It left loads of space for Atlanta's midfielders to control the game and ultimately didn't work. Seattle looked better in the second half after reverting back to their normal pressing tactic.
The result on Sunday was the 10th time the Sounders have been shut out this regular season. To put that in perspective, Seattle was only shut out nine times during the whole of last season. It's surprising to say the least, given that the Sounders haven't been dealing with as many injuries in the attacking areas as they were last season.
Lack of leadership
There's a general sense of malaise surrounding the team right now and that stems from the leaders on the pitch. At the end of last season Brian Schmetzer indicated that one reason things went south was because he put too much trust in "his guys". Based on how things are going this season, it looks like the manager is making the same mistake.
To make matters worse, it looks like some of the best players to ever wear Sounders jerseys may be totally cooked. Raul Ruidíaz and Lodeiro look like empty shells of their former selves, unable to create the magic they once were capable of. Maybe they can figure something out for the rest of the season, but perhaps the Sounders are better with these two being subs.
Give us something to believe in
One of the worst things a sports team can be is uninteresting. That's where the Sounders are at right now because they aren't playing well and they aren't changing anything. It seems like they're the easiest team in the league to play against and just about every team that is in a slump just needs to play the Sounders so they can get out of it.
Fans don't even really need Seattle to be good right now. Given the Western Conference is pretty forgiving because just about every team in the hunt for a playoff spot is deeply flawed (like the Sounders). But what fans do need is something to actually enjoy. If we're gonna lose, can we at lease lose in fun ways? Can we see what the future looks like?