We talked with Dave Clark over at Sounder at Heart about how the Seattle Sounders continue to turn around crappy seasons, what their weakness is, and Clint Dempsey’s retirement.
Burgundy Wave: For the past couple of years, the Sounders have started out poorly and then turned it around in the summer. How have they done that this year?
Sounder at Heart: Sometimes simple answers are the best. It’s health. In the early season Nicolas Lodeiro, Osvaldo Alonso, Victor Rodriguez, Harry Shipp, and Jordan Morris were all hurt. Now, Morris and maybe one other is hurt for a specific match. The offense works a lot better without multiple rookies and HGPs on the field in the attack.
Then they added Raul Ruidiaz and Brad Smith. The Sounders offense went from pathetic to mid-table. That’s good enough when the defense is this good.
BW: What is the Sounders biggest area of weakness and biggest strength this season?
SaH: Weakness is rather easy. The offense can fail, dramatically. It can go months while looking horrible. That’s changed a bit once Raul Ruidiaz and Brad Smith joined the team. It’s still not completely fixed, just look at the last two games. Advanced metrics and traditional ones agree — Seattle’s attack is mediocre over the season.
The biggest strength is the defensive pentagon. It starts with Stefan Frei at the base with Chad Marshall and whoever as the other centerback (in order of likelihood those are Kim Kee-hee, Roman Torres, Gustav Svensson) and then the two defensive midfielders (Osvaldo Alonso, Cristian Roldan, and Svensson in some order). Those five starters and the depth in those roles are great MLS players and all have represented their nation at some point (Marshall not often enough). The collapse and force shots from poor angles and distance. Most MLS teams cannot beat them.
BW: Has the retirement of Clint Dempsey had any impact on the team or fan morale?
SaH: It’s odd, but since he was already gone for several weeks, his being officially gone is just reality. After that first match with the celebration of his career the Dempsey era is over. There’s no emotional weight, whether positive or negative. He was a soft leader in practice, who got along well with the majority of teammates, particularly the youth. But on game day his leadership was more about being a hard ass towards the other team. That bite still exists with Alonso, Roldan, and Torres.
Projected Lineup: Stefan Frei; Nouhou, Chad Marshall, Kim Kee-hee, Kelvin Leerdam; Osvaldo Alonso, Gustav Svensson; Victor Rodriguez, Nicolas Lodeiro, Cristian Roldan; Raul Ruidiaz