It’s a long season, but Seattle Sounders FC might have needed only seven days to show themselves pretty close to their best and their worst.
Actually, the Sounders offense — which for now is to say Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins — clicked along efficiently through both the 3-0 win over New England in the opener and the 3-2 loss to San Jose on Saturday. Two games in, Dempsey is the MLS co-leader with three goals, and Martins is right behind with two.
But the defense that looked encouragingly solid against the Revolution was absent against the Earthquakes.
A quick look at some emerging issues through two very different results:
Brad Evans and the defense: With the forward position bulging with talent and the midfield positions seemingly set, it seemed the Sounders had one clear offseason goal: Improve the defense. Yet to a surprising degree, they stood pat.
There was no getting around the need to replace departed starting right back DeAndre Yedlin, and the club did that smoothly and perceptively with the addition of English veteran Tyrone Mears.
But the other item on the to-do list — written in red and underlined — was finding a center back to complement Chad Marshall. But there, instead of importing a CB version of Mears, the Sounders decided to test the limits of Brad Evans’ versatility.
It was the kind of decision that looks like genius when it works, but sure leaves a front office open to second guessing when it doesn’t.
On Saturday, it didn’t, as Evans was at the scene of the crime on all three Earthquakes goals, leaving his fingerprints all over the loss.
Even after a relatively encouraging Evans debut against the Revs, coach Sigi Schmid said it would take several games to decide if the experiment would work. Now, it will be interesting to see if the Sounders’ have even that much patience.
Missing Mears: While the Sounders may or may not make a change at center back, they certainly will have to make one at right back, where Mears suffered what he called a minor hamstring tear that he estimates would keep him out at least a couple of weeks.
The club has a few options to ponder before returning to league play March 28 at Dallas. But the one that might be most appealing right now would be shifting Evans out to right back while returning veteran Zach Scott to the middle position he held much of last season.
The move seems a two-fer: restoring Scott to a spot he has shown he can handle while giving Evans something more in his comfort zone — but in the name of need rather than surrender.
Once Mears returns, the Sounders could decide what to do at center back. But on-the-job training against people like Chris Wondolowski and Blas Perez is not for the faint of heart.
Level after two games — again: Last season, the Sounders opened with an impressive win over Sporting Kansas City and then had the smile wiped off their faces with a pretty humbling loss to Toronto. It sounds familiar, except in that case it was Marco Pappa in the role of goat.
Yet the sky did not fall. The Sounders took their 1-1 start and turned it into a 20-10-4 season, earning a shiny new shield for their efforts. And Pappa went on to be a valued contributor to that achievement.
We hear that history repeats. And it does, of course, except for all the times it doesn’t. So maybe the Sounders are on their way to another Supporters’ Shield with Evans playing a key role in the heart of the defense. Or not.
Schmid and new general manager Garth Lagerwey obviously believed Evans could be the solution to one of the club’s most pressing problems.
We’re about to see how firmly they believe it.