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Let’s dig into the Seattle Sounders condition; and we won’t be talking about refereeing decisions

Nov 19, 2012, 11:00 AM EDT

Los Angeles Galaxy v Seattle Sounders - Western Conference Championship - Leg 2 Getty Images

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.

(MORE: Analysis of Sunday’s match from Richard Farley)

(MORE: Highlights from CenturyLink, including the controversial moments)

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.

  1. dws110 - Nov 19, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    It’s time for Sigi to go. I think MLS has evolved past Sigi’s level in the past 3 years. Sigi’s got great history in the league which is worthy of respect, but not a new contract or another year in charge.

  2. Sometimes Interesting - Nov 19, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    Re: Seattle complaining about refs…

    It does get old. I’m tired of constantly hearing them blame the refs. But to be fair, they have a case of multiple incidents of those 50/50 calls never going their way – or when they’re rightly penalized for something that their opponent was not.

    Just in this playoff series: LAG 3rd goal in first leg appeared offside. Franklin handled ball in LAG’s area and it wasn’t called. EJ scored first goal in second leg incorrectly called offside.

    Look back to USOC Final for more: Gspurning called off his line (correctly) on PKs, yet Nielsen not penalized for same. Sounders called for Zack Scott handball in box in USOC Final yet Sporting got away with same thing (no-call) in same game. Sporting commits more fouls than Sounders yet collect no cards whole Sounders get 4.

    It’s rarely an egregious call standing on its own, but when you add them up over the course of a season, it’s hard to ignore. I don’t think the MLS “has it out” for the Sounders or anything – no conspiracy theories here. I just think you win some & you lose some, but this year the Sounders got a lot of the “lose some”

    Refs didn’t dictate outcome of the games, but they had a huge impact.

    • Dan Haug - Nov 20, 2012 at 12:20 PM

      This is silly. Seattle won three successive Open Cup trophies, largely by buying homefield advantage throughout the tournament, and then fans accuse refs and other teams of getting preference.

      If you look at the teams that consistently win competitions, they do it by systematically doing what needs to be done to get the wins. LA, Houston, Columbus, and even Seattle have been able to do that over the last few years.

      LA COMPLETELY dominated Seattle in the second half of the first leg. That had nothing to do with refs. Seattle actually got a lot of breaks in that 45 minute stretch, as they easily could have given up 5-6 goals. Instead of recognizing that, and asking how they fix it, fans (and owners) are throwing a pity party.

      Seattle needs to find their composure in the playoffs, play consistently strong (and sometimes cynical) defense when it’s required, get that little extra sharpness when things get tight, AND have a little bit of luck. They’ve been able to do that in the Open Cup 3 of the last 4 years. They just need to carry that over into the playoffs, and not fall into the trap of developing a persecution complex.

  3. footballer4ever - Nov 19, 2012 at 9:53 PM

    SSFC simply choked on that first game. They gotten accustomed to choke, if not at the beginning, then at the end.

  4. bnwpnw - Nov 20, 2012 at 1:49 AM

    As I read it, the refs are credited with THREE goals’ worth of differential in this series? I’m a new fan here, so help me out: Isn’t that kind of high?

    Hey, I like the games, but if MLS is just gonna be amateur hour in terms of officiating, what’s the point?

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