Let’s hope some of the understandable, caffeinated consternation coming from Seattle has died down a bit overnight; a whole bunch of pitchfork and lantern-level animus rose from Rave Green Valley late Sunday.
The fans clearly care, and thanks heavens for them; the club’s impassioned support has done so very much to enhance and color in the sometimes black-and-outline drawing of MLS.
But as the sting of last night’s loss wears off, the balance needs to tilt away from officiating-inspired acrimony and wrongheaded league level conspiracy suggestions (claims of being “cheated,” egged on some of the owners, no less) and more toward thoughtful introspection.
The Sounders are done for 2012, and the reasons have a lot to do with the club’s own decisions.
Did the breaks fall Seattle’s way? Absolutely not. And that was on the essentials list for the dramatic rally Seattle Sounders FC needed. Former Sounders man Kasey Keller said as much before Sunday’s broadcast, and he was spot-on right. Which brings us to the point:
The Seattle Sounders and manager Sigi Schmid simply left themselves with too much to do. They put themselves in position to need those breaks.
Seriously, a 3-0 deficit? Again?
The Sounders made critical mistakes. Again. Worse, they were rooted in the same naiveté and lack of a collective, two-part plan that did in Schmid’s team in 2011. The Sounders simply must develop another approach on the road, one that seeks to limit the two-legged damage and give the team a chance to claim the series at home.
They need a little more Houston Dynamo-type pragmatism, a little less attack-minded, organizational hubris, the kind that says “We are Seattle, and this is how we do it.”
Just like a year ago, a 3-0 hole, one assembled imprudently on the road, was too much to overcome. The fault here lies in failure to focus on shape and defensive responsibility on the road, plus the choice to go with offense-minded Mario Martinez in the opening leg in Los Angeles.
Speaking of that lineup and the revisions made Sunday: the Sounders used 34 different lineups in 38 MLS matches this year. How can that be? Injuries and attempts to rest older players certainly count for some of the lineup instability. But this much?
Finding a consistent lineup is about dodging the ill effects of wanderlust, this illusion of infinite choice, one that says “something better is always out there.” Sometimes a club has to look at its roster, identify its best 12 or 14 and go with it. Seattle had 19 players who started at least 10 matches. The Houston Dynamo, as a comparison, had 15.
Mauro Rosales is one of the issues. He’s 31, which is hardly ancient. On the other hand, he seems to wear down, this being the second year Seattle’s top playmaker wasn’t there at the critical, playoff moment.
Then there’s Fredy Montero, a wonderfully talented young striker who can carry the team when he collects full speed on one of those signature streaks. But the evidence is in, unfortunately: he cannot be counted on for the playoffs. Ten matches (zero goals) is a big enough sample. Whatever choices are made going forward, Seattle management cannot hide from this one, and the Colombian attacker’s inconsistent ways simply must be part of that conversation.
“Streaky” can carry the playoffs – but it can also be a playoff ambition’s undoing.