While our Ralph Schudel already previewed the Sounders, we wanted to go a little more in depth with what’s going on with our friends in Seattle, who have not had the best start to the 2018 season. We turned to Dave Clark of SB Nation’s Sounder at Heart to answer a few of our questions about the team.
Here’s how that exchange went down:
Massive Report: It’s obviously not the start to the season the Sounders would have liked. First, what do you attribute that to? Second, is this a major concern or are the last two years’ runs enough to not have fans worried at this point?
Sounder at Heart: It’s the third straight year with a slow start. Fans, especially those that are the most vocal, are understandably upset. Yes, the last two years were good to great. History was made in 2016 and to get back with the prize within reach in ‘17 was amazing. This is a new year, with new problems. Some of those problems are by choice -- Seattle played their first three matches down a man for some portion, and had three players miss four games due to red card suspension. Other problems the soccer side of things have less influence over -- the injury list is massive. DPs Nicolas Lodeiro and Osvaldo Alonso missed time. TAM players like Magnus Wolff Eikrem, Victor Rodriguez, Roman Torres, Kelvin Leerdam and Kim Kee-Hee missed time. The best defender in league history missed time (it’s former Crew player Chad Marshall). The highest paid HGP of all time is out for the year. Typical MLS players like Will Bruin, Harry Shipp, Waylon Francis and Henry Wingo have also missed time due to injury. Saturday will be Seattle’s seventh league game of 2018. Their total injured list looks better than the squad that went to MLS Cup two years in a row.
MR: How has the loss of Jordan Morris for the season impacted this Seattle team?
SaH: With 2016 Jordan Morris and 2017 Will Bruin the Seattle Sounders had a strong forward tandem for either a lone forward system or for a diamond. Without Morris they lack bodies, significantly. There are only two non-Bruin players able to play forward. Clint Dempsey (we’ll get deeper into this in a bit) can play there once in a while but shouldn’t be counted on for long stretches. Lamar Neagle is far enough along in his career that he is merely a late sub in this role.
What that means is that Seattle’s offense must get scoring threats from the attacking band. When healthy (ugh) Nicolas Lodeiro, Victor Rodriguez and Magnus Wolff Eikrem should be able to get goals hanging out with Dempsey. With two Roldans and a couple HGPs in Wingo and Bwana there’s reason to believe/hope that the midfield can bear that responsibility, when healthy (ugh). But they aren’t healthy, or fit. Rodriguez just went under surgery on his knee. Wingo had surgery on his hand. Wolff isn’t fit enough to start regularly, so the burden is now on a bunch of guys that could be on U23 squads (or younger).
MR: At 35 years old, Clint Dempsey is no longer a spring chicken. How has his game changed/evolved to compensate for Father Time?
SaH: Clint is less active on defense than he used to be, even then he wasn’t very active. He gets pulled from games, sometimes doesn’t start. His off ball runs are less frequent, and not as a long. Even his touch isn’t what it once was. While this may not be Clint Dempsey’s last year this is the year where it is become obvious that one of America’s greatest is fading away. He’s still a threat, but is now not a DP based on what he does on the field.
Of course, Dempsey still feeds off doubt, so if someone puts this in front of him he will perform well. With a midweek game upcoming it is likely that he doesn’t go 90 or even 75.
To read Massive Report’s answers to Sounder at Heart’s questions, check out their Three Questions piece.