It’s great when a team has a wealth of international talent. The Seattle Sounders have a bunch of players with the pedigree to get called into their national teams with regularity and it leads to a strong and exciting team with a ton of talent capable of winning any game they play. Such a roster can have a couple drawbacks, though, and the Sounders put those on display on Saturday night when a short-handed squad barely showed up to play the Colorado Rapids.
International breaks can be complicated in MLS, especially this late in the season. The playoff race is in full swing when the September international window hits and it presents an interesting set of challenges for any team in a tight playoff race. Add that to the sea of injuries that a team can experience this late in the campaign and you get a team in need of some real depth during the business end of the season.
This past weekend saw a pair of playoff contenders pass the depth test while another failed it miserably.
Thanks to a combination of international call ups and injuries, the Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, and LAFC were forced to field incomplete squads heading into important matches late in the regular season.
The Timbers managed to get a late winner against Sporting Kansas City and LAFC went across the country without the best player in the league and managed to get a draw against a tricky Orlando City squad. These two results showed that those squads have the depth required to win in tough situations.
The Sounders, on the other hand, were without ten players in total, including a few of their most important players and promptly laid an egg against a Rapids team they really should be beating.
Seattle were missing regular contributors Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan, and Raul Ruidiaz, and more. Their squad was so thin that they needed to call in a pair of players from their USL affiliate just to have five guys on the bench.
“The public narrative is certainly you’re missing…I don’t know how many guys we were missing,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said after his short-handed team put on a lackluster display in a match against the Colorado Rapids that most people would expect the Sounders to win. “We’re not going to use that excuse in there,” he added.
Schmetzer may not publically use the lack of available talent as an excuse, but his short bench could have a massive effect on the playoff race. They sit in second place at the moment, but their 46 points have them a mere four points away from dropping out of the playoffs entirely. Five of the six teams immediately below them have an extra game remaining in the season, as well, meaning missing out on three points in a winnable game could prove disastrous.
The Sounders don’t exactly have an easy schedule down the stretch, either. They host the New York Red Bulls next weekend and then FC Dallas comes to town during midweek after that. Three days later they travel across the continent to take on a motivated D.C. United team that also needs every point they can get in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They round out the campaign at the resurgent San Jose Earthquakes and hosting Minnesota United, who might just need a win to make the playoffs for the first time in their history.
There’s no reason that Seattle can’t enough of these games to qualify for the playoffs and Saturday’s blip will be nothing more than that. In fact, that’s probably what should happen given the amount of talent on the team.
However, with how competitive and random MLS is, they could just as easily slip at the tail end of the regular season and find themselves missing out on the playoffs by the three points that their B-squad missed out on in a game against a Rapids team that isn’t exactly playing for anything meaningful.