After more than seven years in Major League Soccer, the Seattle Sounders finally cut ties with coach Sigi Schmid. The two parties agreed to a mutual parting following Seattle’s thrashing at the hands of Western Conference rivals Sporting KC.
However, to blame Schmid for the Sounders’ problems on the pitch would be erroneous. It is his job to get the team ready tactically on the pitch, but the players let him down from the moment the season kicked off. In addition, Schmid wasn’t helped by the assembling of the side this season, which has hurt the club most of all.
This week, World Soccer Talk looks at 5 reasons Seattle Sounders can’t blame Sigi Schmid for the team’s 2016 shortcomings.
1. No replacement for Obafemi Martins
Out of the blue, the Sounders’ top scorer in 2014 and 2015 Obafemi Martins was sold to Chinese Super League team Shanghai Shenhua in February. Martins’ $3 million move to China took at least 15 goals a season away from the Sounders. The Nigerian designated player did make $3m in 2015, but his goals were well worth the price. Seattle did not sufficiently replace Martins after his sale. The best the team could do was adding Herculez Gomez. The Sounders have scored the third fewest goals in MLS, and the fewest in the West. The Sounders have also lost the most matches in MLS this term. The team desperately miss Martins’ goals.
2. Clint Dempsey is overpaid and overvalued
When Clint Dempsey returned to MLS in 2013, he was expected to set the league on fire. That hasn’t exactly happened and many have questioned whether he is worth the $4.6m contract the Sounders have him under. Based on statistics, this season is a down year for the 33-year-old. Three goals and one assist in 13 games doesn’t seem to warrant the price that is being paid to him. Although 2016 could just be regarded as an anomaly after back-to-back seasons with double digit goals and assists. Dempsey has been played in five different positions in 2016, according to WhoScored.com, but as the team’s leader, Dempsey should be providing more goals in the team’s time of need.
3. Did Seattle need a creative midfielder?
Seattle officially signed Uruguayan Nicolas Lodeiro on July 27 to a designated player contract. Yet, was a creative midfielder exactly what Seattle needed? The Sounders are averaging the most crosses per game in MLS, according to WhoScored.com. The team already has Andreas Ivanschitz in the side and the Austrian has collected two goals and five assists this term. The team also has Dempsey, who is just as creative a player, hence his double digit assists in each of the last two seasons. So, why not add another striker? Pursuing a striker that can finish the chances already being created would have been a better use of the Sounders’ resources. This team isn’t as bad as it appears in the table. The problem is, the club need a striker that will get 12 to 14 goals a season. The signing of Lodeiro isn’t something that happened under Schmid’s watch, but reiterates that the construction of the team wasn’t down to him either. The MLS obsession with creative midfielders is great, but only works if there is a striker to score the chances created.
4. Reliance on Jordan Morris
A lot has been put on the shoulders of 21-year-old rookie Jordan Morris this season. The Sounders’ new boy leads the team in goals with seven, and his all-around play has improved greatly since the opening weeks of the season. The Sounders’ play has been quite dependent on Morris. In the seven fixtures that he has scored, the Sounders have won six and drawn one. How he goes, the Sounders go. Without Morris in 2016, the Sounders would be propping up the foot of the overall MLS table. If general manager Garth Lagerwey expected the rookie to replace Martins, he got what he wanted. Unfortunately, Morris can’t do it alone.
5. Seattle held on to Schmid too long
While this is no fault of Schmid’s, the club’s executives should be held accountable for not cutting ties with the Hall of Fame coach earlier. Seattle struggled mightily at times in 2015, although the team made the playoffs. However, the Sounders should have pursued Jason Kreis as rumored last offseason. Kreis is now with Orlando City and there is no clear cut option for the team. The MLS Playoffs too often give teams a false sense of security and prevent coaching changes that warrant them. As long as teams qualify for the postseason they fail to pull the trigger on firing coaches when they otherwise should. Schmid should have left earlier, but arguably he earned the right to have one more crack at the MLS Cup in 2015. Unfortunately, instead of going out on top of a respectable season, Schmid leaves as Seattle try to rebuild and make a playoff run to end 2016.
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