The Seattle Sounders are supposed to be competing for a championship, not one of the first picks in the 2017 MLS Draft.
Yet it is the latter scenario that the Sounders frustratingly find themselves in through nearly two-thirds of the season. The club is 10 points shy of a playoff spot in the bruising Western Conference after playing 20 games, and a major contributing factor is its inability to find the back of the net. The Sounders currently have just 20 goals to their name, which is currently the third-worst haul in MLS and has them sitting in ninth place in the west.
Losing star forward Obafemi Martins was a massive blow to a Sounders side that relied heavily on the speedy Nigerian to score and create goals. Overcoming his absence was, however, was something the Sounders thought they could accomplish.
“Ultimately this transaction gives us roster and salary cap flexibility heading into our 2016 MLS season, including the opening of a Designated Player position,” Sounders general manager and president of soccer Garth Lagerwey said back in February. “We have a talented and capable group in our locker room, and we’re excited for the year ahead.”
It has been far from exciting in Seattle this year, and Sunday’s 3-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City underlined just how bad things are right. Not only was the Sounders’ anemic attack held without a single shot until the 88th minute when a low drive was hit well wide of frame by Joevin Jones, but players across multiple positions looked dispirited, defeated, and downright bad. You only had to see Sporting KC’s gift of a final goal to get an understanding of that.
Clearly things are getting worse for the Sounders before they are getting better, and change is sorely needed. An addition like the reported Nicolas Lodeiro arrival should help improve things, but a bigger shakeup is needed, starting with the firing of long-time head coach Sigi Schmid.
Schmid has undeniably had plenty of success with the Sounders since the club made the jump to MLS seven seasons ago, including winning an impressive four U.S. Open Cup titles and claiming the Supporters’ Shield in 2014. He has also turned the Sounders into a perennial contender for MLS Cup, guiding them to a pair of Western Conference finals in 2012 and 2014.
MLS’s major prize has continued to allude him in Seattle, though, and winning it now seems more improbable than ever before. The Sounders have produced some good moments of play in the new 4-3-3 formation that Schmid opted to go with this season but it has yielded precious few goals and results. Schmid has also not found a way to get the best out of Designated Player Nelson Haedo Valdez, who, despite his pedigree, has scored just once in league play since arriving last summer and zero times since August.
The 63-year-old Schmid also seems to be out of answers for how to solve his team’s finishing woes, insisting time and again that goals would come so long as the Sounders continued to create chances.
“We just have to continue to play the way we’re playing, because our tactics were right,” said Schmid after the Sounders misfired their way to a 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls in June. “We talked about the tactics and we talked about how we wanted to play and the guys followed that, and I thought we opened them up fairly well.”
The goals have not come and neither have the results, leaving the club in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since they moved to MLS in 2009.
To Schmid’s defense, the aging Clint Dempsey has missed significant time this year, promising youngster Jordan Morris is still learning what life is like in the pros, and Valdez is not producing. Still, all of that is not reason enough for a team like the Sounders to be out of the playoff picture, let alone near the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
That is why Schmid needs to go. It is not that he is a bad coach – his resume speaks for itself – but his time in Seattle has run its course. His methods have grown stale, and some new blood and ideas are needed to freshen things up and potentially turn this thing around before it is too late. If it is not already.
There was uncertainty as to whether Schmid would return to the Sounders a couple of seasons ago after the club fell short in the playoffs again, but he was signed to a multi-year extension with the target of helping the Sounders lift their first MLS Cup trophy.
Barring some remarkable turnaround, that does not seem to be in the cards this year. Not with the status quo. The Sounders have lost their way, and Schmid needs to be axed after failing to guide the Sounders into a better position.
That might be a tough pill for Schmid to swallow, but even he might agree at this point.
“It’s a results-oriented business. I know that as well as anybody,” said Schmid after a 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps back in March. “At the end of the day, we’ve got to start getting some results or quite a few of us could be looking for new jobs.”