Seattle Sounders Are Still a Major Contender for MLS Cup

Peter Galindo@@GalindoPWFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2015

Seattle Sounders players Thomas, right, Nelson Valdez, second from right, and Erik Friberg, third from right, celebrate after they defeated Orlando City 4-0 in an MLS soccer match, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

The Seattle Sounders' 2-0 loss to Real Salt Lake was the team's ninth defeat in its last 11 games in Major League Soccer. Despite this poor form, Seattle should still be considered as a favorite for the MLS Cup.

According to recent odds provided by ESPN's Paul Carr, the Sounders are listed as 12-1 favorites. Only five teams have lower figures and two are in the Western Conference:

Paul Carr @PaulCarrTM

As the @MLS week begins tonight, here are the latest title odds from @LVSuperBook: http://t.co/wbzIxx6JQG

However, Seattle only has a 34 percent chance of qualifying for the playoffs, per Carr. Only three teams are below the Sounders:

Paul Carr @PaulCarrTM

MLS playoff odds from our Soccer Power Index, as the @MLS week begins tonight: http://t.co/wD8ISTHi6R

Those numbers appear to contradict one another, but upon closer scrutiny, they make sense. The Sounders are tied for the sixth and final playoff spot in the West with the San Jose Earthquakes. Seattle has also played 26 games compared to San Jose's 25.

Seattle has a tough ending to the season. It faces the Portland Timbers, Toronto FC, LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake at home. The Sounders will play the Earthquakes, Vancouver Whitecaps, Sporting Kansas City and Houston Dynamo on the road.

The main issue with the Sounders during the summer has been injuries and international call-ups. General manager Garth Lagerwey noticed this and bolstered the squad with several solid additions.

Panamanian defender Roman Torres will shore up the back line. He was called for a handball against RSL in his last outing, but Torres should be a valuable commodity for the Sounders.

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Midfielders Erik Friberg and Andreas Ivanschitz give head coach Sigi Schmid extra options in midfield. Now he can tactically adjust with more central midfielders depending on the opposition.

Paraguayan striker Nelson Valdez was also acquired during the summer transfer window. He scored on his MLS debut against Orlando City SC but struggled versus RSL in the previous match.

Then there's Clint Dempsey and Osvaldo Alonso. Both players are still unavailable, and Schmid admitted that he "doesn't know" if they'll be ready to face Portland on Sunday, per the Seattle Times' Matt Pentz:

Matt Pentz @mattpentz

Your daily, #breaking Dempsey and Alonso news. Schmid says Sounders "don’t know yet" whether they'll be available Sunday against Portland

Now that Torres and Chad Marshall are the primary center backs, Alonso will be even more important to the Sounders.

MLS' armchair analyst Matthew Doyle noted that with Brad Evans moving from center back to midfield, distribution from defenders will likely decrease:

Matthew Doyle @MattDoyle76

Gonna be interesting seeing Torres' passing charts. Not much of a distributor for Panama. https://t.co/JV6rjLxCt4

Matthew Doyle @MattDoyle76

Not sure I agree. Evans' distribution & comfort on the ball was key to Seattle's shape when they were rolling. https://t.co/84bsc3ECeg

This is where Alonso solves the issue. He can help the defense by collecting the ball from deep and moving the play forward.

Dempsey is equally important due to his chemistry with Obafemi Martins up front. The American has seven goals and six assists in 13 appearances. However, suspension, injuries and international duty have limited his playing time.

Once these two return, the Sounders will be a difficult team to overcome with their depth in quality.

The home matches will be especially advantageous. Seattle has eight wins, one draw and four losses at CenturyLink Field. The Sounders have just three wins on the road this year.

There will be chances to earn points at home. TFC has conceded 30 goals on the road, and RSL's 26 isn't much better. The Timbers have scored just nine times outside of Providence Park, and the Galaxy have won just two away games.

On the surface, Seattle is in danger of missing the playoffs. In reality, the Sounders have bulked up and should have a full squad in the final months of the campaign.

The New England Revolution struggled last summer. They signed Jermaine Jones and ended up playing in the MLS Cup final. These turnarounds have occurred before.

If any side can recover after a rough patch, it's the Sounders.

Peter Galindo covers MLS and U.S. soccer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @GalindoPW.

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