Through their first nine matches, the Sounders FC dominated teams defensively. They allowed just three goals and posted six shutouts, flaunting their depth with seven different defenders seeing significant minutes and even turned to their backup goalkeeper when starter Michael Gspurning suffered a hip injury.
In the last three matches, though, defensive lapses led to five goals and the Sounders have just one point to show from it.
What used to be an embarrassment of riches for head coach Sigi Schmid where he could pick and choose his lineup from game to game has now turned into limited options. Leo Gonzalez and Patrick Ianni were already out with injuries and Adam Johansson was added to that list on Wednesday when he pulled up with a hamstring strain in a 2-0 loss to the Columbus Crew.
Add to that the suspension of defensive midfield wizard Osvaldo Alonso and the Sounders will be tested when they face a motivated Chivas USA side on Saturday at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.
Seattle isn't viewing the match as a time to worry about their defense, but instead as a challenge that they are meeting head on.
"If you look at the record, we still have seven wins and we're still in third place in the West. I don't think it's any moment to think we're in a crisis," said midfielder Andy Rose, whom Schmid mentioned as a possibility on defense in a pinch. "Obviously we need to get back to winning ways. It's just a matter of getting back to scoring goals early and finishing teams off. And getting back to defending really well like we can. I have no doubt that we'll be back on track in no time."
In Chivas USA, they meet a team that has struggled to score, but are unbeaten in their last three matches and added some quality in forward Juan Agudelo and defender Danny Califf in trades last week.
"They've made some trades and improved their team," Schmid said. "Those two additions have raised their confidence and lifted their spirits."
Like the Sounders, Chivas will be playing without some key components, as the middle of their midfield won't be available on Saturday. Defensive specialist Oswaldo Minda is away on national team duty with Ecuador while playmaker Nick LaBrocca suffered an injury in Wednesday's 1-1 draw with New York.
Along with Agudelo, who is now back from US National Team camp, they feature the attacking Colombian duo of 36-year-old veteran Juan Pablo Angel and 19-year-old rising star Jose Erik Correa, who both have two goals.
The match kicks off at 7:30 with television coverage live on KING 5 and the radio broadcast on 97.3 KIRO FM.