Sounders Insider

Sounders can't advance unless midfield is better

The Sounders had all sorts of problems in midfield Saturday, which went a long way to explaining their 3-0 loss at Real Salt Lake.

My story in today's News Tribune notes that two of the very best players in MLS -- Mauro Rosales and Steve Zakuani -- were missing from that midfield. However, the guys who filled in have certainly filled in before with far better results. Coach Sigi Schmid even called out Osvaldo Alonso, who is usually as set-your-clock reliable as anyone in the league.

“We couldn’t keep the ball, we couldn’t hold on to the ball," Schmid said. "Some of that was due to their pressure, but some of it was just our bad passing. That’s probably one of the worst games I’ve seen Alonso play in his three years with us. And it just wasn’t a good exhibition of soccer from us.”

And in an interesting list of five MLS playoff observations, Seattle's wobbly midfield play was one of five issues raised by ESPN soccer analyst Jeff Carlisle:

The shock of Seattle's loss wasn't so much that it occurred -- Real turned Rio Tinto Stadium into a fortress long ago -- but rather that its midfield basically went missing for the duration of the match. Granted, RSL has imposed its will and dominated more than a few teams. But midfield was an area that was expected to be contested on equal terms, and instead it turned into a complete mismatch. Lamar Neagle's relative inexperience was exposed, especially where his defensive positioning was concerned, but that excuse can't be used for the likes of Brad Evans, Alvaro Fernandez and Alonso. These are players with plenty of battle scars. Fernandez has played in a World Cup. Evans and Alonso have played in numerous MLS playoff games, not to mention CONCACAF Champions League encounters, with Evans helping Columbus to an MLS Cup in 2008. If Seattle is to have any hope of conjuring a playoff miracle, it will need its midfield to ratchet up the intensity while making sure that emotion is channeled in the right way.