When head coach Sigi Schmid and the Sounders FC technical staff sat down at the start of the season and penciled out what the team would look like, they likely didn’t realize how challenging the first four months of the season would be.
Using a different lineup in each of their first 17 matches because of injuries, suspensions and international duty, Schmid’s squad has shown its resilience throughout the first half of the 2013 campaign. The team’s 7-7-3 record ranks seventh in the Western Conference, but just six points behind the LA Galaxy for the fifth and final playoff spot with games in hand.
“I would really like to see what this team looks like when we can get our best players on the field for three or four games in a row,” Schmid said. “I’d like to see what we look like at that point. Right now we haven’t been able to do that and so right now it’s been inconsistent as a result, and we’re probably in the right position based upon our inconsistency.”
Injuries have perhaps created the most difficulty, especially in recent weeks with injuries to the top two goalkeepers as well as several of the team’s wide midfielders. Still, the group has persevered as players have stepped up in the absence of regular starters to take advantage of the opportunity to help the team win.
Even still there have been highlights. Early season addition Obafemi Martins has a team-high six goals while seeing just 11 appearances. Lamar Neagle and Servando Carrasco went from part-time replacements to starters that have made it difficult to say they haven’t cemented their spots in the starting lineup. Brad Evans and Eddie Johnson have remained crucial pieces to the team even while missing extended periods of time with the U.S. National Team. Meanwhile the offseason additions of Djimi Traore and DeAndre Yedlin, who was the lone rookie named to the 2013 MLS All-Star team, have solidified the defense.
After starting off the season winless in their first five league matches, Seattle went 7-2-1 over the next 10 and were the hottest team in the league before a two-game losing streak just before the midway mark.
As strong as they were over that successful run, it is the first five and the last two that resonate most with Schmid.
“Right now the performance hasn’t been up to what we would call our standards and we have to continue to fight, continue to work and get it there,” he said.
An encouraging note for Seattle is that they have been a second-half team through each of their first four seasons. In 2009, they went 7-4-4 in the second half, three points better than their first-half record. In 2010, they went 10-2-3 after the midway point for an eight-point improvement on their first half. The 2011 season saw them go 12-3-2 for an astonishing 13-point jump and last year they were 8-3-6 and four points better than their first half.
On average, the team is seven points per season better in the second half than they are in the first.
Seattle starts the second half of the season with three straight home matches and will play 10 of their final 17 matches at CenturyLink Field, where they have a 4-1-2 record this season and are on a four-match winning streak.
The second half of the season starts on Saturday against the Colorado Rapids. Kickoff is 1 p.m. PT at CenturyLink Field.