Minutes after the Seattle Sounders fell to 0-3 for the first time in their Major League Soccer existence Saturday, coach Sigi Schmid delivered the sobering quote of the day.
“We’ve got to start getting results,” he said, “or quite a few of us could be looking for new jobs.”
After falling to the bottom of the league — 20th out of 20 teams — with a 2-1 home loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps, those words from the winningest coach in MLS history became kindling for supporters and media.
They were electrifying: The season had begun just 13 days earlier.
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They were sobering: Guys losing their jobs is no casual threat.
They were even obvious: Of course, if wins don’t eventually come, changes will.
But once the sun rose again Sunday, it seems the wisest appraisal may have come from Sounders veteran Zach Scott: “(While) 0-3 isn’t an impossible hole to climb out of, it’s definitely not one you want to be in.”
Amen. Just the right summation of the Sounders’ current predicament.
They have lost three straight games. No one in the organization wanted that start, and it’s not likely any even envisioned that start. But a three-game losing streak at some point during the season? That wouldn’t have shocked anyone. It just registers differently coming right out of the gate.
(For those who don’t see this start as a dark enough shade of black, there’s also this: Include CONCACAF Champions League matches and the Sounders are 0-4-1 in 2016.)
It isn’t even difficult to imagine things getting worse before they get better. After a bye this weekend, Seattle returns to MLS play at home against Montreal, which is living up to its projection as an Eastern Conference contender. Then comes a visit to Houston (1-1-1) and on its home turf. After that, the Philadelphia Union visits on April 16; and if the Sounders go to bed winless that evening, then it will be time to resurrect Schmid’s dark projection.
But if they’re 3-3 by then — or even in the neighborhood of 2-4 or 2-3-1 — then the quote will be largely forgotten. There’s nothing like a stormy 0-3 start to make 2-3-1 seem like a sunny day.
Which is more likely?
Well, all winning streaks begin with a single victory, so it would be nice if the Sounders would do their part to get the optimism train rolling.
Despite that zero in the win column, they haven’t looked that bad or bumbling. All three losses have come by a single goal. All three could be washed away with a single, reasonable what-if.
What if Stefan Frei hadn’t mishandled that bouncing shot in the opener? What if Frei would have been healthy for the second game — or if Tyler Miller had punched away that towering cross in front of goal? What if referee Mark Geiger’s parents had never met?
Over three games, the Sounders have allowed five goals, and four of them carry some kind of asterisk: uncharacteristic misplay by Frei, misplay by reserve keeper in first MLS start, and two controversial penalty kicks.
Only Sunny’s sizzler in space at Real Salt Lake registered as a standard-issue soccer goal from an offense outperforming a defense in the run of play. That could mean the Seattle defense is good enough to carry the team back above the playoff red line, after which almost anything could happen.
Offensively? Well, Obafemi Martins is missed. Period. However, he did not take Nelson Valdez, Jordan Morris and Clint Dempsey with him. All three had solid chances Saturday, but rather than goal, goal and goal, the results were late, soft and wide respectively.
It’s time for those guys to produce.
If not soon, then Scott’s appropriate assessment for March could give way to Schmid’s appropriate assessment for April.