Seattle Sounders FC went through five matches before getting its first win this Major League Soccer season, and the club suffered eliminations from the CONCACAF Champions League and U.S. Open Cup.
The Sounders have lost players to injury, national-team duty and a league-high five players to red-card suspensions.
And yet, 12 games into the 34-game MLS regular season, they somehow have compiled their second-best record at this point.
In light of the turmoil, distractions, and doom and gloom of the Sounders’ early season, coach Sigi Schmid was asked if even he can believe it.
“We’ve had to work through a lot of things ” Schmid said. “We got off to a bad league start, and we were unfortunate a little bit in our first game (a 1-0 loss at home to Montreal) and took a late goal in the other game (a 1-1 draw at home to Portland). If those two things don’t happen, well, then it’s a whole different thing. It may be the best start in our franchise history. So, I think when we have all our bodies here, I think we’re a good team.”
The perception the Sounders are having a down season was fueled by the general belief back in March that neither the Impact nor Timbers were exceptionally good teams. Flash forward to June, and that one-goal loss and draw don’t seem like accidents — Montreal is on top of the Eastern Conference, while Portland is the only team in the league with just one loss.
Schmid also thinks that while the one-two punch of that loss and draw may have been overvalued, some of the Sounders’ victories also have been undervalued.
“We’ve accomplished a lot of things that I think people haven’t really given us credit for,” Schmid said. “It doesn’t matter what team Tigres sent up: We knocked off a Mexican team. Nobody’s done that in the Champions League. We got within one goal of getting to the Champions League final. I think that’s pretty good. It shows that we have quality.”
Another indicator is the club’s turnaround in the MLS, where the Sounders’ 2-0 win at Chivas on Saturday marked their fourth win in their past five league matches.
But while the results are starting to come, the trend of nothing coming easily has continued.
Designated player Obafemi Martins — whose goal on Saturday marked the earliest point in the season any Sounders player has reached the four-goal mark — received a red card in the second half from referee Ricardo Salazar.
“There isn’t anything I can do about it,” Martins said. “For me, I didn’t do anything. I was trying to get up and get the ball back. The (midfielder) screamed and the referee looked at (Gabriel Farfan) and gave me the red card.”
The card will add to Schmid’s ongoing need to fit his lineups together with staples and glue when the Sounders return to league play Saturday against Vancouver at CenturyLink Field. Martins will join a list of unavailable players including Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans (U.S. team), Mario Martinez (Honduran team), Shalrie Joseph (disciplinary suspension) and probably Osvaldo Alonso, who suffered a thigh injury in the first half at Chivas.
”It’s going to be a difficult game because we’re missing a ton of players ,” Schmid said. “We’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and battle. But we’re at home, we’re in front of our fans, and we know we have the ability to do that.”
AFTER A DOZEN
The Sounders’ record and points each season after 12 Major League Soccer matches: