Seattle Sounders FC is about to play a team that seems in free fall.
Last weekend it was Chivas USA, whose troubles continued with a 4-2 loss at Seattle.
On Sunday, the Sounders will visit the Colorado Rapids, who are winless over their last 10 games. Eight of those have been losses, and three have come by three goals or more.
“It’s a little bit similar to Chivas, but different,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “… I know they’ve gotten blown out in a couple of games, but one was just a bad game in goal, and the other game it just sort of collapsed on them. But if you watch in most of their games, they’re in the game for 70-75 minutes for sure, and often longer than that. They’re a very competitive team. … They lost lots of defenders in the back for a while, but (Shane) O’Neill is back. So I think their depth is deeper than it was a month ago.”
The Rapids remain within slim mathematical striking distance of the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. However, those hopes would end with anything but a win over the Sounders. Seattle already is assured of a return to the playoffs but remains in a neck-and-neck race with Los Angeles for the Supporters’ Shield and top seeding in the Western Conference.
This may be Schmid’s last chance to talk up a struggling opponent, as the schedule might present nothing but playoff teams from here. Vancouver visits Seattle on Friday before the Sounders end their regular season with road and home matches against the Galaxy.
“We’ve got to win, just like any other game,” defender DeAndre Yedlin said. “It’s crucial these last four games, especially for the Supporters’ Shield race. So we have the same mindset we’ve had this whole year — just to win.”
The Sounders have done that more often than any other team in Major League Soccer, and another win would establish a franchise record. But they have been forced to depend on offensive weapons such as Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey, especially in recent weeks, to compensate for a defense that has been stretched and scored upon.
Seattle also has surrendered a franchise-high 46 goals, including nine over the last three games. Even last weekend against Chivas — the lowest-scoring team in MLS — the Sounders fell behind twice.
“I think maybe sometimes we get out of shape,” central defender Chad Marshall said. “We’re so focused on being offensive and scoring goals that maybe we leave ourselves a little susceptible in the back. We’ve talked about it. We know it’s a problem that needs to be sorted out, and hopefully we can do that for this weekend.”
Seattle hasn’t held an opponent scoreless since August — a 1-0 home win over the Rapids.
However, Schmid’s greatest ally in his fight against overconfidence may be the memory of what happened last time his team visited Colorado.
Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of a 5-1 loss at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, which at the time stood as the worst defeat in club history. The onslaught began in the opening seconds, with Colorado’s Dillon Powers scoring the second-quickest goal in league history.
“We still think to last year when we got smacked there in Colorado,” Sounders captain Brad Evans said before the previous meeting. “… That was a bit of a wake-up call.”