In their last seven MLS games, Seattle has lost four matches and drawn three, falling from near the top of the Western Conference to fourth in the conference, a point behind Cascadia rivals Vancouver but with the Galaxy in their rear view mirror. What’s the reason for this mess? Is it something more than a mid-season slide that can be corrected? The answer was clearly seen this weekend against their rivals from Portland.
To set the stage, the Sounders had not lost to the Timbers “during the MLS era”, a streak that did not look to end when facing a Portland team that looked about to fire its coach and had fallen into last in the conference. But Portland jumped in front early when Steven Smith created some space on the left before centering a pass in front of goal to an open Kris Boyd. The striker had a step on Seattle defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, enough of a step to easily score the game’s first goal. A set piece was the Sounder’s weakness on the second goal when David Horst found space during a corner and headed the ball past keeper Andrew Weber to send the home crowd into a frenzy. Again, it was a Timber in space who had an uncontested shot on goal, as you can see here:
And this was not Horst’s first chance – he had another chance right before that he had headed off the bar that should have been the second goal. The moral of the story is that Seattle’s defense committed some really bad early defensive gaffes, allowing Portland to defend just well enough to get three points. This has been the story of Seattle’s losing streak – poor defending that has led to the team relying on an attack that has seen some players injured and others just beginning to click.
During their losing streak, the Sounders have given up 13 goals in seven matches, whereas prior to that they had only allowed three in nine MLS matches (granted that does not include their 6-1 loss in the CCL). It seems like the major culprit may be schedule congestion as they Sounders are seeking another U.S. Open Cup; they play the ‘Quakes in the Open Cup tomorrow. Both injuries and lack of depth are also handicapping this team; for example, Marc Burch and Zach Scott were your starting fullbacks on Sunday, not exactly a championship combination. In the offseason, the question was whether the Sounders had enough on offense to support a streaky Freddy Montero; now, with that question partly answered, you have to wonder if Seattle has enough defense to compete on multiple fronts.