Pegged by some to win the 2010 MLS Cup in only its second season of existence, the Seattle Sounders currently sit in a three-way tie for second place in the Western Conference in the early goings of the season with a 2-1-1 record.
Their defense has stood strong, allowing only three goals in four games.
However their offense has been just that—offensive—scoring only five goals in the four games.
Finishing was a problem last year, dooming them in the playoffs as they failed to score a goal in the first round against Houston, and it has continued into this season. Standing out is the shutout in the team’s second game when they were held scoreless by the New York Red Bulls—the worst team in the league last year—and narrowly escaping with three points in their latest match against Kansas City, not scoring until the 92nd minute of the contest.
Against the Red Bulls, the Sounders set a club record with 12 corner kicks and outshot New York 17-10. They put the pressure on New York’s defense and made goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul make saves, but when it was all said and done zero balls found the back of the net.
It can’t help the team’s morale knowing that Sebastian Le Toux, who the team left exposed in the expansion draft and was selected by the Philadelphia Union, scored three goals in Philadelphia’s first ever franchise win.
Their defense is good enough that on some nights the team can get away with scoring only one goal. However that is a lot of pressure to force on a unit, to stay perfect every game in order for the team to have a chance at collecting points.
Opposing defenses know that playmakers Freddy Montero and Freddie Ljungberg are the biggest threats, and have played very physical with them, not letting them get free and get many good scoring chances.
Last year’s starting striker Nate Jaqua, who scored a career-high nine goals and at 6'4" was the top target on set pieces, underwent abdominal surgery earlier in April and will miss at least another month.
Reinforcements are on the way, though.
After Seattle’s first game of the season the team signed MLS veteran Pat Noonan, a technical player with a good finishing touch who has scored 45 goals in 172 regular season appearances.
There is also the upcoming summer arrival of Blaise Nkufo. The Swiss International and FC Twente scoring leader will join the Sounders at the conclusion of Switzerland’s run in the World Cup.
The team is getting down the field and applying pressure. They have creative players that can create opportunities for themselves and others. They also have quick players, namely Steve Zakuani, who can get behind defenses and run at them.
They just cannot put the finishing touch on their plays, and that could prove costly down the line as it did in the playoffs last year.
Seattle gets two chances to work on improving their scoring panache this weekend when they face FC Dallas’ defense-in-work on Thursday night and Toronto’s porous defense Sunday.
Defense may win championships, but you can’t win games if you don’t score.