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Sounders FC: What a difference one season makes



For the Seattle Sounders, there will be one positive difference from last season: Blaise N'Kufo arrives July 13, the team announced this week. 

Beyond that, one thing is quite clear: The 2010 Sounders, as they are now, are far removed from the 2009 club as far as level of play. So much so that the postseason is now closer to being out of reach for the club at the season's midpoint.

The goalkeeper and back line are taxed, affected by both the season-ending injury to defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and the inability of the forward players to generate enough offense. Last season when the offense sputtered, the defense was strong enough to keep Seattle close and provide enough stability for the offense to build up chances. Not the case so much in 2010, as opponents have nine goals (including an own goal) in the past three matches.

Kasey Keller and his defenders were under attack from the start Sunday night against the Los Angeles Galaxy, forced to chase Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle and Juninho. As bad as Seattle needs wins, it seemed that a draw would suffice, as the Rave Green was clearly the lesser of the two teams on the field Sunday night. 

The easiest excuse to make for the 2010 Sounders' shortcomings is injuries. Midfielders Brad Evans and Osvaldo Alonso remain unable to play and Nate Jaqua, such a key last season, is only now rounding into form after returning from a long-term injury.  

That said, Sigi Schmid still has many of the same players from last year. It makes one wonder why they are underachieving. Freddie Ljungberg disappears at times. Keller is having too work to hard for a guy in the twilight of his career. The team lacks cohesion, energy and a killer instinct in the box.

There is talent — Steve Zakuani is developing into quite the offensive threat and keeps teams honest with his speed – but one wonders about the team's depth if wins are at a premium when the top players are out. And is the leadership, from coaching staff to Keller and Ljungberg, doing enough to inspire the rest of the team? Are the leaders leading?

It's hard to imagine things improving for Seattle in the second half of the season, a backloaded one with a U.S. Open Cup match this week against Los Angeles and two CONCACAF Champions League matches ahead (one in El Salvador), plus a couple of friendlies. The arrival of N'Kufo is heralded as a possible energizer, but even that seems like it won't be enough to get this team a playoff spot.

N'Kufo will be honored with a statue by supporters of FC Twente, his former club in Holland. The statue is to be unveiled on July 11 at the club's home stadium, then N'Kufo is off to Seattle to report to training. He is eligible to be added to the roster July 15. 

There are no statues going up in SoDo, the part of Seattle that houses Qwest Field, though.

It's as if this year's team should have been last year's floundering side making its way through Year One, and then improvement would come in Year Two. But these Sounders look like they are in a sophomore slump. An own goal from James Riley Sunday? The bad breaks seem to add up when things aren't going so well. 

The Galaxy are head-and-shoulders better. They showed it Sunday night, just as they did in Seattle earlier this season. Last year's Sounders were every bit as good as the Galaxy in the regular season, but the gap in quality of play has widened significantly this year. 

The Sounders hope the turf at their second home, the Starfire Sports Complex, offers them more of an advantage against the Galaxy then at the HDC or Qwest Field. Wednesday's Open Cup match (7 p.m.) is sold out (roughly 4,300 fans), and if Seattle wins, it gets to host the Chivas USA-Houston Dynamo winner on Aug. 31 or Sept. 1 in a semifinal match. 


  1. And Seattle’s backups beat the crap out of the great depth LA has last night. Bottom line is we’ve been without, what anyone who really knows the team, would say are our two best players in Alonso and Hurtado. Add in Evans and Jaqua and the entire spine of the team has been gone for a good part of the year. Take any MLS team and remove their best defender, their starting central midfield pair and their #2 goal scorer and they are going to suck balls.

  2. Nope. Thats what outsiders to Seattle will never quite figure out. Soccer really is huge here, and fandom to the Sounders is equally huge, and runs a lot deeper than you want to understand. So be it.

    We still think we will make the playoffs, hows that for smug.

  3. Well said lance.

    Forum posters probably want Seattle to draw 5,000 so they can go back to their own brand of smug.

    Not happening. We’re in it to win it, every year.

    And I also agree building Van and P*rtscum small stadiums was dumb. Will keep Seattle earning that much more income a year, and keep us more likely to be the big dog in the Northwest and beyond. And like any big dog you get little yappy lapdogs around trying to take us down.

  4. I saw Nkufo v Spain in the WC and looked up some of his goals at Twente. The guy is a beast. There is potential for much upside, including upsetting your beliefs about how the Sounders will finish out the year.

  5. Fc Dallas and their 800 fans? I don’t think so.

    One big difference. Seattle has the USL tradition, the NASL tradition, and expects to do well. Our owner expects to do well and to win. The fans expect to do well and win. It must just annoy the fark out of some of you to see a 2nd year expansion team think it can turn it around and be competitive, hell, even to try being competitive. Its july the season must be over right?

    Anyone posting from outside Seattle about how (anything) Seattle is has zero cred. We know how we are, and we know how awesome that is, and we can’t really hear you over the sound of how awesome we are. Yes thats arrogant looking, but you don’t live here, you don’t fill Pioneer Square every match, you don’t support the Sounders. How the F could you know. You couldn’t. But keep babbling, makes when we come back and win all the sweeter.

  6. Well if its on twitter it must be true. (eyeball roll)

    people griping online does not equal actual real life actions. I go to every game, attendance is where its been since the middle of last season. Entire lower bowl full, upper bowl 8 rows deep. Somewhere between 36 and 40K per match. And yes those seats are full.

  7. yes. supporters have not bailed. 36K and up every match.

    And just as an aside, we’re seeing some pretty awesome stuff with our bench. Post match US Open 7/7 had Sigi hinting at starting lineup overhauls. Long overdue. The pace and quickness off the ball we had with Seamon, Montano, Nyassi in the lineup as well as a healthy Jaqua screamed volumes about the potential this team still has this year.

    N’Kufo will also help. Is the MLS ready for someone of his size and finishing ability and tough play? If he shows anything like he showed in the WC or Dutch league, MLS is going to see the Sounders in the playoffs and be a force yet in 2010.

  8. The ego isn’t bruised, instead it is getting bigger, because WHEN seattle plays better we know there will be quite a few that are hating it.


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