The Houston Dynamo are ready to respond to a disappointing road loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps that was decided by a soft penalty kick call. Despite the penalty call being the difference in the 1-0 defeat, the Dynamo offense lacked potency. The team now faces the Seattle Sounders, who are currently the bottom team in the Western Conference, at home in Houston after a bye week which allowed players to return from injury.
In our preview of the match we discussed if our defense was ready to step up to Clint Dempsey and a Sounder offense looking to find its form, but we wanted to learn more about what's going on with the Sounders so we spoke with Dave Clark at Sounder at Heart to understand what's going on with the club in Seattle.
Dynamo Theory: The Seattle Sounders finished their 2015 MLS campaign in 4th place (just a few points shy of 2nd) and ended up falling to FC Dallas in the Conference Semifinals in the playoffs. What are the expectations this year for the Sounders and what would be considered a failed season?
Sounder at Heart: The answer to this one varies wildly. There are people who will consider another appearance in the playoffs success. Others insist the club has to get the MLS Cup, or at least a Shield or Open Cup. I've even written that Sigi should be gone if he doesn't win the MLS Cup, despite that I think it isn't because the 2016 season would be a failure, but due to the long-term success curve of the club. Lastly, there's the opinion that this season is a rebuild rather than a reload.
Those people feel that the talent added during the two transfer windows is more important than the results of the regular season. They see a team with eight regulars that will be 30 or over starting the 2017 season. With an open DP slot and enough TAM/GAM to add a second significant piece the two new additions will be about a continuing need to extend the trophy window. When the org had core that ended 2015 the window was probably going to close at the end of this year. Now without Oba that window might be closed right now.
It's about what Morris, Roldan, Kovar and Anderson can do as they step into major roles and what gets added. This is the most complex season for Sounders FC since 2009.
DT: The Sounders currently sit in last place of the Western Conference and have only finished 3 goals in 4 games. Why is Seattle struggling early out of the gates?
SaH: Every loss has a reason. They're each valid. All of the reasons suck and there isn't anything that can be done about it. Oniel Fisher took an early red card for the type of challenges we're seeing called more often this year. Then Stefan Frei flubbed a routine save on a shot from distance. So rather than scrape out a 0-0 draw while down a man for 75+ minutes match one was a loss. In the next game injury subs. In match two the Sounders had to use an 18' minute sub when Friberg went down. Despite that they were up a goal... and then lost 2-1 at home anyway. Match three saw Vancouver dive once and flop another time. Two penalties against was the only offense the Whitecaps could muster. It was another 2-1 loss.
All teams have crappy luck throughout the season. Crappy luck three games in a row to start the season after losing an MVP candidate shined a big, bright light on the issues with the offense. Seattle doesn't "deserve" to be at the bottom of the table. But they also don't look good.
DT: Following Obafemi Martin's departure, the Sounders' offense seems to be searching for the right way to connect the pieces in order to run optimally. How can Sigi Schmid tinker a way to get this Sounder offense to start producing?
SaH: Once upon a time Jordan Morris was going to be a rotational player trying to learn the pro game. Now, in the post-Oba Sounders Jordan Morris has to be the man, at least until they add another top end talent. Nelson Haedo Valdez and Andreas Ivanschitz can help. Both joined during the Summer transfer window last year (as did Eric Friberg and Roman Torres, both injured). Together that offense should be able to do things. It has yet to perform.
Last match, and probably in this one too, Sigi shifted the parts around in order to try and increase service to Clint Dempsey. That's the other part of the answer. Where Oba needs to be replaced by the group, Clint needs to be an MVP candidate. That means a lot of touches within 25 yards of goal, mostly central. He "should" be scoring more goals. It's not happening yet.
There's a lot not happening yet. At this time the Sounders are an average MLS side. They can win games; they can lose games; they won't look dominant ever.
Projected Lineup: Frei; Joevin Jones, Marshall, Evans, Mears; Alonso, Roldan; Dempsey; Ivanschitz, Morris, Kovar
For my answers to Dave Clark's questions check them out at Sounder at Heart!