After another sluggish performance, Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer lamented his team's sudden downturn in fortunes.
This isn’t the Sounders team he’s used to seeing.
With only one win in their last five matches — and three goals scored — the symptoms that ail the Sounders aren’t necessarily acute, but if the problem isn’t diagnosed and corrected, threatens to become chronic.
“What I saw were quite a few things that we could do better,” Schmetzer said. “We started falling into the same trap of giving slopping balls away [and] giving the ball away early.”
Schmetzer was particularly concerned about the first goal the Sounders conceded, both the nature and timing right before the end of the first half.
“The goal we gave up was not a good goal to give up,” Schmetzer said. “We haven’t played well and the decision to play short; Yeimar just passes the ball back to Stef and he’s under pressure. We play over the left side and Chú loses the duel.
While Schmetzer said that Alex Roldán could have cleared the ball, it was more about the decisions in that moment by the team that hurt the Sounders.
“That was a decision the team made to try to play when normally we should have taken the goal kick and kicked it long and circled the wagons and gone into halftime,” Schmetzer said.
The goal was emblematic of the Sounders’ struggles during this run, which don’t resemble to team that started the season 5-1-1.
“We started off the season with four, five, six clean sheets,” Schmetzer said. “And that team is somehow not there anymore.”
The team’s run of form threatens to unravel that hot start, and while it would be unrealistic to expect the Sounders to continue on that pace, the fall off has been somewhat jarring to see.
“Every team at some point in the season goes through this spell,” Albert Rusnák said. “Last year we went through it at the end the season. Right now it’s not good enough and I think that sums up this game.”
Goalkeeper Stefan Frei agreed that it’s normal for teams to have to play through bad runs, and believes the Sounders will work their way through it.
“It’s typical for every team to have tough questions to ask themselves and to find answers at some point in their season,” Frei said. “The benefit for this year is that we started out strong and we have two-thirds of the season to find answers.
“We’re not going to panic. We’re going to put our heads down, we’re going to work hard and stick together and work for each other.”
Rusnák said the Sounders do have the benefit of a full week of training and three home games in which to right the ship, and it will be important to take advantage of this stretch of games.
“It starts in training,” Rusnak said. “The way you train is the way you play. It’s going to be important the way we prepare, mentally and physically.”
Ultimately, Schmetzer said the team will have to improve their defending and mentality if they want to come out of this slump.
“We have to get back to competing, actually winning our duels,” Schmetzer said. “[Make] sure we understand that it’s life or death in the penalty box,
“I just want them to compete and play the way I know they can.”