CHESTER, PA. – The cavalry should not be expected to ride over the hill to rescue Seattle Sounders FC, veteran goalkeeper Kasey Keller said Sunday after the club’s 3-1 loss to Philadelphia.
Forward Nate Jaqua returned to action, and he should help. Next month, Swiss striker Blaise Nkufo will join the club after resting up from World Cup duty, and he should help. Coach Sigi Schmid has seen enough to believe that rookie Mike Seamon can help.
But Keller’s message is that the core of this team is similar to last season’s much more successful club, and the existing players need to take it upon themselves to rediscover what worked.
“We need to turn things around, and turn things around fast,” Keller said. “I think we’ve laid too much on the shoulders of Blaise and Nate, and say, ‘OK when they get here then everything will change.’ We’re still leaking goals. It’s frustrating, we’re all frustrated, and we’re going to do our best to change it.”
The Sounders flew home from Philadelphia with a 4-7-3 record. That’s good for 11th place in a league where the top eight make the playoffs. They are 10th in the 16-team league in goals and 11th in goals-against average. They have given up three goals in back-to-back games. The latest loss ended a three-game stretch when Seattle went 1-2 against three teams behind them in the standings: New England, D.C. United and expansion Philly.
Now the toughest challenge in the league awaits: a Sunday visit to MLS leader Los Angeles.
And the Sounders can’t even devote full attention to that, because their U.S. Open Cup opener looms Wednesday at Portland.
“I’m never a guy who’s going to say it’s desperate,” Schmid said. “You have to believe you’re going to win. That’s what we talked about. We have an Open Cup game midweek and then we play on the weekend against L.A. We still believe in ourselves as a unit. The game’s all about when you dominate, you have to score goals and you have to make sure they don’t score. (The Union) worked hard, and in the second half they raised their level of play and did well.”
Even if Jaqua and Nkufo aren’t saviors, they should provide something the Sounders have so far lacked: a big body to draw defenders – and ideally finish – in front of the goal.
The soonest Nkufo can play for Seattle is the July 15 game at D.C. United.
Jaqua played his first 18 minutes of the season on Sunday, but he said he remained rusty after missing much of preseason and all previous games with an abdominal injury.
“It was nice to get on the field, but it was very, very disappointing about (the result), and I would have liked to have done better on the first day back,” Jaqua said. “I’m definitely having to get sharp. I’m not quite where I want to be yet. I was disappointed with myself. I think I missed a couple of opportunities that I could have done better with, a couple of things defensively I could have done better with. I have to continue to get better.”
The Philadelphia game also marked Seamon’s MLS debut. Now the second-round draft pick from Villanova could start seeing regular action as Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League matches begin crowding in with the MLS regular season schedule.
“I felt all right out there,” Seamon said. “I only lost possession a couple times in the box, which is a terrible time to be taking a chance, so I have to do better. ... Once I got in a lot of the guys were running out of gas, so it was tough to get going offensively. I would have liked to provide a spark there. ... Getting in a game is a start to a career. I’m happy to get in, but the loss is tough to take. Next time, we need to win the game.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer